Extinction Rebellion / Greenpeace hustings at the Sub Rooms, Stroud - 19th November 2019



pening statement

Thank you for inviting me here tonight.

One thing that I am particularly looking forward to, is to listen to your ideas. At times of election, it can be all too easy to focus on what divides us, rather than where we are united. 

Not a single candidate on the stage denies the challenges that climate change presents.  Everybody will agree that addressing the challenge will be one of the most defining issues of our age. 

The scale of this issue is such that no one party or group can have all the solutions.

We need to ensure climate change does not become a political football and that good ideas are welcomed irrespective of where they originate. In this spirit, I am looking forward to tonight.

I come here with an open mind, and I hope you choose to do the same.

There is a lot that we, as a nation, can be proud of.

We have led the way in many respects on the environment with other countries following our plans.  But more can and must be done.

Anyone who suggests that a simple set of policies is the answer does not understand the scale or complexity of the issue. What is needed is societal change on a scale which has rarely been seen before.

To achieve this, I think we need three things:

1) Blue Planet, Extinction Rebellion & Greenpeace have done a great job at bringing the issue to popular attention. What it has highlighted though is that real and lasting change can only come from the people. No amount of compulsion can force people to make changes that they are not prepared to make.

I think of the small example of plastic straws – we saw the speed with which these disappeared from bars and restaurants. This was not driven by statute but because the people understood the issue and acted responsibly. 

2) The second thing we need to do is to harness the creative powers and innovation of free enterprise. This country and Stroud in particular have many, many great inventors, entrepreneurs and small and medium size innovators. They, and capitalism, are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution.

If you ask yourself why the number of hybrid and electric cars have increased over the last few years, a large part of the answer is business.  Toyota invented the Prius and Tesla created a high end electric car that people want to use.

Tesla was not invented by a state planner or abureaucratic government administrator. Only free markets are capable of coming up with creative and practical solutions to the problems we face and that people will want.

That is not to say that there is no role for the government. Indeed, it forms the final part of thesolution.

3.The state plays a valuable role in setting the agenda, creating the policy framework that encourages people to make the right decisions and channelling the creative powers of free enterprise.

It also plays a key role in creating an environment in which creative enterprise can flourish by ensuring that our children are well educated, our workers have access to high quality health care and where individuals are provided the support they require.

Now, I suspect that this may be an unpopular thing to say, but I strongly believe that until we get beyond Brexit, the machinery of government will not be able to rise to the challenges of climate change or addressing the other issues that matter to the people of Stroud. 

Those who say that repealing Article 50 will end the debate or spending months arranging a second referendum that may result in another Leave or close vote - will help bring the nation together ----- are naïve.

The evidence of the last three years is that Brexit needs to be done to really focus on climate change and the other domestic issues that matter so much to us all.

But I wholeheartedly believe we can make the changes that are necessary.  I am a free school meal kid that had a chaotic childhood, left home at 15 and qualified as a solicitor without going to uni and I am sat here tonight before you smart people.  

Because of my personal experiences and seeing ordinary people doing extraordinary things every single day – I come AT politics looking for solutions rather finding problems.  Iam inherently positive rather than negative.  We can do this together.  

Finally … I have seen the comments that some XR people write on my social media and in other places about my government …  so I am in the unusually calm position during an election of not expecting to win any votes at all tonight  J

So, as I said at the start, I am here to listen.

I am sure that you will all have some creative ideas about the steps that need to be taken, and I am sure you will not hold back from letting me know your views.

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