On this page

The climate crisis

LGBT rights

Britain and the EU

UK General election 2024


Why are these here?

This website is about education (obviously!).

But what goes on in our schools and colleges is not the only thing that matters to young people, and the graphics represent three issues which I care about deeply and which I believe are of importance for the wellbeing of future generations.

The first - the climate crisis - is already damaging children's lives around the world; the second - LGBT rights - affects everyone because it is about society's attitude to difference; and the third - Britain and the EU - is of relevance mainly to young people in Britain, though it also has wider significance.

Please note that the suggestions below apply to the UK. Elsewhere, there may be similar organisations you can support. Be aware that in some countries you may, sadly, be putting yourself at risk if you contact groups concerned with LGBT rights - be careful.

The UK will elect a new government on 4 July. At the foot of this page you'll find information about what the party manifestos have to say on these three issues.


The climate crisis

What's the graphic?

It's the photo of our planet - from a distance of around 29,400 km - taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on 7 December 1972 as they were on their way to the Moon. Known as The Blue Marble, it is one of the most reproduced images in history.

Why is it here?

It represents the most fundamental issue facing future generations - that of preserving life on our planet. In its Climate Action programme, the UN argues that in order to achieve net zero by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 (compared with 2010 levels), whereas current action plans will result in a 9 per cent increase by 2030.

So I reckon the human race has about thirty years left, after which, if we don't take drastic action now, vast areas of the Earth will be uninhabitable and billions of people will be crammed together, struggling to survive on what's left of the polar ice caps. And if you think I'm being too pessimistic, read this (The Guardian 8 May 2024).

We are now perilously close to the point of no return - if we haven't already passed it - and I am dismayed that, instead of working together to secure the future of life on Earth, we seem to be more interested in bombing each other to oblivion.

Suggestions

Sign up to one of the many environmental campaign organisations, such as Just Stop Oil, a non-violent civil resistance group which is calling for an end to the licensing of all new oil, gas and coal projects. It has many student supporters.

Support Teach the Future, a campaign led by school and college students, which aims to improve education about the climate emergency and ecological crisis.


LGBT rights

What's the graphic?

It's the rainbow flag, designed to reflect the spectrum of human sexuality. It was first used in June 1978 at San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Parade and is now seen at events around the world. There are many variants of the flag but this one is the original and most widely used. (And, in my humble opinion, the best!)

Why is it here?

Much has changed since I was a teenager in the 1950s/60s, when gay sex was still illegal, blackmail was rife, and newspapers ran headlines about 'filthy perverts'. Here in the UK discrimination on the basis of sexuality (and gender reassignment) was made illegal by the 2010 Equality Act and gay marriage is now commonplace; Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) in schools is LGBT-inclusive and there are now many films and 'young adult' novels which feature gay characters.

But - and it's a big but - all is not well. Homophobic bullying continues to be a problem in schools; vicious hostility to LGBT people is damaging lives in Russia, Hungary, most of Africa and parts of the US; and far-right governments around the world are using hate as a political weapon.

Suggestions

Support Stonewall, which was formed in 1989 to campaign for the repeal of Thatcher's obnoxious Section 28 (see chapter 15 of my history for more on this) and continues to campaign on LGBT issues.

If you work in a school or college (or even if you don't), check out Just Like Us, the charity which works with schools to support LGBT students and their straight allies, provides speakers and produces free educational resources.

If you work in a primary school or are a parent of primary-age children, have a look at the books and resources produced by Pop'n'Olly which teach about equality and diversity and help combat prejudice before it can begin to form.

And if you're a gay teenager (and if it's safe to do so in your country), catch up with It Gets Better, an international movement which provides positive and reassuring messages for LGBT young people.


Britain and the European Union

What's the graphic?

It's the flag created for the Council of Europe in 1955 and adopted as the official emblem of the European Union in 1985.

Why is it here?

It's here because Brexit - the most grotesque act of national self-harm in my lifetime - is a disaster for our young people:

  • economically - Cambridge Econometrics (January 2024) say Brexit cost everyone in the UK 2000 in 2023 alone and that by 2035 it will have cut Britain's economy by more than 300bn. Our young people will be paying for Brexit all their lives;
  • socially - it's about what sort of people we are and how we relate to others;
  • culturally - the loss of freedom to travel, work and play music across Europe;
  • environmentally - Britain continues to use bee-killing neonicotinoids and other chemicals banned in the EU, dumps sewage in rivers, and flies meat from the other side of the world instead of shipping it across the Channel;
  • healthwise - poorer food safety standards;
  • ethically - lower animal welfare standards;
  • educationally - the loss of Erasmus and of many European students from British universities; and
  • politically - it has given succour to far-right forces across Europe and beyond.
Brexit was voted for overwhelmingly by the old. The young voted to stay in the EU. For their sakes, Brexit must be reversed.

Suggestions

Subscribe to The New European. First published after the 2016 referendum, the weekly paper was originally intended to last only for four issues. But it proved very successful and has gone from strength to strength. Regular contributors include Alastair Campbell, Matthew d'Ancona, Jonty Bloom and Patience Wheatcroft.

Join the European Movement, founded by Winston Churchill in 1949 to promote European unity in the wake of World War 2. With 22,000 members and 230,000 registered supporters, its aim is to see Britain back in its rightful place at the heart of Europe.

It's going to be a long haul back to sanity but, for the sake of our young people, we must make a start, and the sooner the better.


UK General election 2024

Here are brief summaries of what the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Scottish Nationalist manifestos have to say on these three issues. (I've ignored the Conservatives because ... well, if you cared about any of these matters you wouldn't vote Tory, would you?)

Labour

Note If the polls are right, Labour will form the next government.

The climate crisis The party describes this as 'the greatest long-term global challenge that we face'. It will create a new publicly-owned company, Great British Energy, with the aim of switching Britain to clean energy by 2030. But it recognises 'the ongoing role of oil and gas in our energy mix' and will invest in carbon capture and storage - something which has so far failed to work.

LGBT rights Labour is the only party to mention conversion therapy, which it - rightly - describes as abuse. It will deliver 'a full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices, while protecting the freedom for people to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity'.

Britain and the EU Labour is weakest here. While it says it wants better relations with our European neighbours, it states bluntly that 'Britain will stay outside of the EU ... There will be no return to the single market, the customs union, or freedom of movement'. Given that more than 75% of the public now believe that Brexit was a mistake, Labour's position is extraordinarily disappointing.

Liberal Democrats

The climate crisis The party recognises this as 'an existential threat' and is committed to 'cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 at the latest'. It would seek to ensure that the economy is 'sustainable, resource-efficient and zero-carbon', and establish a new Net Zero Delivery Authority to coordinate action across government departments.

LGBT rights The party would offer asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, and would develop 'a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality and advancing LGBT+ rights' around the world.

Britain and the EU The Liberal Democrats would 'Fix the UK's broken relationship with Europe, forge a new partnership built on cooperation, not confrontation, and move to conclude a new comprehensive agreement which removes as many barriers to trade as possible.'

The Green Party

The climate crisis As you would expect, the Greens have the most comprehensive set of policies on this issue. They will urge the next government to issue no more licences for oil and gas extraction, and will push for 'transition to a zero-carbon society as soon as possible, and more than a decade ahead of 2050'.

LGBT rights are mentioned twice in the Green manifesto, in sections on Mental Health and Schools. In the latter it calls for 'a full, evidence-based and age-appropriate programme of Relationships, Sex and Health Education, including LGBTIQA+ content and resources.'

Britain and the EU The Green Party is 'pro-European, and proudly so'. It opposed Brexit and believes that 'Britain would be better off politically, socially, environmentally and economically had we maintained our EU membership'. Green MPs will therefore argue that Britain should rejoin the Customs Union and Erasmus Programme, with the ultimate aim of rejoining the EU as soon as possible.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP)

The climate crisis

The manifesto says 'Our commitment to tackling the twin crises of climate change and nature loss is unwavering and we believe emissions reduction and economic prosperity go hand in hand. We want to share in the enormous economic opportunities of the global transition to net zero.'

LGBT rights

'The SNP has a proud record of advancing and championing LGBTI rights in government, and we will continue to build on this, working with LGBTI communities, to make Scotland a fairer and more equal place to live. With independence we would have the full powers to improve equality in law and society, and the ability to champion LGBTI equality internationally.'

Britain and the EU

The key aim of the SNP is an independent Scotland within the EU. 'Brexit has been a disaster for Scotland. Despite voting overwhelmingly to remain within the EU, we have been dragged out against our will and are powerless to escape the consequences. Brexit has wiped billions of pounds from the Scottish economy, pushed up prices on food and services and hit hard our ability to fund vital public services such as the NHS. We have lost access to one of the world's most sophisticated and integrated international justice and crime-fighting ecosystems, red tape is exacerbating medicine shortages, and the end of freedom of movement has made it much harder to recruit staff to work in our NHS, social care and other vital sectors.'

In conclusion

These are, of course, very limited summaries of the parties' policies on these three issues. For a fuller picture, you can find their manifestos here:

Labour
Liberal Democrat
Green Party
Scottish Nationalist Party
If you want to vote tactically to get the Tories out, have a look at the Get Voting or Tactical Vote websites.

How shall I vote? If I lived in Scotland I'd certainly vote for the SNP. But here in Oxford East - which will almost certainly return a Labour MP with a healthy majority - I might vote Labour because I support their commitment to banning the psychological cruelty of so-called conversion therapy, or I might vote Green, on the basis that the party has the most pro-European stance. Decisions, decisions ...


If you have any comments about these issues I'd be pleased to hear from you. Contact details are here.

Derek Gillard
March 2024

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