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After the 2024 Election: What Next? … by Deanna Nicholson

It is a relief that my sitting MP is no longer Tory after 29 years of living in the Mid Sussex constituency. This election was always going to be interesting due to the new boundaries and the country-wide push for tactical voting. We could see that in the swing to Lib Dems, as most tactical voting websites had recommended them as the best chance to oust the Tories.

We were hoping we would keep our deposit at least, due to the fantastic national campaign run by the Green Party and the increase in the Green share of the vote in the local council elections. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and it gave me great pause for thought that the Reform candidate, who did not even live in the area, was able to poll nearly three times as many votes as me. I will admit that straight afterwards I found this very disheartening, but you can see by the numbers how this split the Tory vote and helped in their defeat.

I strongly believe that the next election will be very different for the Green Party, both nationally and locally. I first stood in 2019, and it was impossible to talk beyond Brexit when canvassing. For this election, it was all about getting the Tories out. But for the next election, there will be growing external drivers that are going to refocus both the government and the electorate on much more serious matters - the growing impacts of climate change.

This is a topic that the Green Party is putting center stage in its policies, and the public knows this. No one wants to be right about the devastating impacts of climate change, but in the next 5 years, they are going to be almost impossible to ignore. Underreporting in the UK news about devastating floods in Northern Europe and extreme heat events in central Spain and Greece means we here are less aware of the gathering impacts around us. Our little "Gulf Stream bubble" of protection is weakening rapidly, and that is when the UK will see what other areas of the world have been facing for a while now.

My prediction is the next election “hot topics” will be food security and demographics.

This spring the UK potato crop was devastated by extreme rain fall, leaving the plants to rot in the fields. These issues were seen across Europe too. The UK is already woefully lacking in food security, which was being quietly acknowledged by the  last government with Defra publishing its first of a planned annual report of the UK food security index in May this year. As climate change driven extreme weather events increase, the threat to other UK crops will also increase, and our food security reduced. One reason we are particularly vulnerable here is that we use the land we have so inefficiently, and waste too much food, leading to us having to import around 1/3rd of it from other countries. Farming is the lifeblood of our countryside, but the pressures to produce cheap, high yield crops, means we are one of the most nature depleted countries on earth. This is not the fault of the farmers, but of successive governments ignoring the issues and failing to channel financial support effectively. These issues can only be ignored for so long, and now we are critically exposed to climate shocks, so it won’t take much to tip this into a crisis that can’t be ignored. It will be interesting to see if the new Labour government has the foresight and courage to preempt and begin to mitigate these effects, as planned action, based on the best available science, is our only way forward that offers real hope. As things stand in Mid Sussex, we have impossible housing targets handed down by central government, and the Lib Dem controlled district council is putting prime agricultural land in the Neighbourhood plan ready for house building. This actually makes our food security worse!

Demographics of the UK are another crisis in the making, as the country is rapidly aging and our birthrate plummeting. Whilst less people, especially those that have the climate impact of the developed world, is good for the planet, rapid changes in demographics cause massive issues in caring for an aging population, and how to fund the pensions and care they need. In the UK our tax system is heavily biased to taxing earnings , but as the number of workers fall this won’t be sustainable. Intergenerational rareness must also be acknowledged, as this style of tax funding of services means that young people are paying for pensions and healthcare they will never get themselves. They are already largely shut out of home ownership, which stops many of them ever hoping for families of theor own, and saddled with eye watering student debts at frankly extortionate rates of interest. The previous Tory government hid this issue behind mass immigration to keep up the numbers of workers, but in most nations young people will become one of their most precious resources and nations will strive to keep their own. We will need to offer our young people a much much better deal than they are currently getting for them to want to stay in the UK.

Moving forward, I believe the Green Party is best placed to have credibility with the electorate on the real issues that are looming for the UK. I hope the new Labour government learns some lessons, borrows some policies, and begins to tackle the climate crisis, along with the intergenerational fairness gap.

Key Points for the Future:

- Early action is crucial for effective and cost-efficient solutions

- The presence of 4 Green MPs will help magnify the message

- Next year's County Council elections are an opportunity to increase Green representation

- Showing Mid Sussex voters that Green votes lead to needed policies and actions

Roll on 2029 - but there is a lot that needs to happen before then!