Young climate activists are discreetly trying to influence Labour’s candidate selection process in six constituencies before the general election, in an effort to form a climate caucus that can sway the next parliament.
Outlining its electoral strategy at a press event on Monday night, Green New Deal Rising (GNDR), a youth climate campaign, said it intended to mobilise thousands of young activists to promote eight general election candidates in marginal seats.
Two are Greens, Siân Berry, who is campaigning to succeed the veteran Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion, and the Green party co-leader Carla Denyer, who will take on Labour in Bristol Central, a new constituency created by boundary changes.
Six others will be Labour candidates in marginal seats whose identities have not yet been revealed, but whom GNDR activists have been secretly supporting for selection.
Fatima Ibrahim, GNDR’s co-executive director, said: “We’ve been organising for candidates in the selection processes and have decided to keep that quiet, because the Labour leadership approach to selection has been to get rid of people aligned to communities in any significant way.”
The activist network will also support Jamie Driscoll, the mayor of North of Tyne, in his campaign to be the north-east’s first regional mayor. Driscoll quit Labour after he was controversially barred from standing as the Labour candidate. But he has been lauded by GNDR and other environment-focused groups for his ambitious green policies.
Ibrahim said GNDR had already trained about 2,000 organisers across the country, and that they were hoping to mobilise 10,000 core activists by the time of the election to campaign on climate action.
“We’ve set up to scale for this moment, we always were getting ready for 2024,” she said. “Our organising programmes are getting ready to absorb thousands of young people, and we said in Jamie’s instance, in that campaign, we are going to need to turn out 60,000 votes.
“We’re talking big numbers, but we’ve been working on this and building the sort of infrastructure to be able to scale for the last 18 months. So we’re ready to take in young people up and down the country to take those roles and bring in new waves of young people.”
The goal, Ibrahim said, was to create a committed climate-focused caucus of MPs to influence a future Labour government, in the same way as small blocs of rightwing Tory MPs have led the conversation for the Conservative government since 2014.
“The Net Zero Scrutiny committee, which was a very small group of rightwing sceptics, or the [European Research Group] … were able to define the Conservative governments of the last decade,” Ibrahim said. “They made Brexit happen, they now have a government in power that went from being a champion, at least on the face of it, of climate to being one that’s taking it to the culture wars.
“And that is the type of organising we are going to challenge our candidates to do. They will have immense power as backbenchers under a Labour government, particularly if there isn’t a massive majority.”