15/11/2019 17:20 GMT

Unions Warn Labour's 'Green New Deal' Could Backfire In Industrial Heartlands

One source tells HuffPost UK adopting language of "middle class campaigners" risks alienating communities fearing for their jobs.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor

Radical Labour plans to tackle the climate emergency need a “dose of the reality”, unions are warning the party’s top team. 

HuffPost UK understands Jeremy Corbyn is facing calls to rethink Labour’s ‘green new deal’ over fears it could be framed an attack on industrial jobs.

Senior figures have warned that banning the sale of petrol cars by 2030 and a binding commitment to make the UK carbon neutral in just a decade risk a major backlash similar to the yellow vest movement that swept France. 

Unions say “middle class campaigners” pushing the fast-track eco-strategy must understand it puts jobs at risk in industries such as transport, aviation, agriculture and cement in industrial towns and boroughs.

It comes as Corbyn prepares to sign off the party’s general election manifesto this weekend ahead of the country going to the polls on December 12. 

One Labour source close to the leader said the “scale of investment” going into industrial communities under a Labour government “would transform them beyond recognition” and it would ensure a “just transition” to carbon neutral. 

It comes as Boris Johnson aims to target Brexit-voting Labour heartlands in the industrial North and Midlands. 

Corbyn, meanwhile, will want to hang on to 2017 gains, when he picked up seats in urban centres and university cities, and act on the concerns of climate change protesters such as Extinction Rebellion, who have raised the alarm over the state of the natural world. 

But top union figures fear politicians penning the manifesto “assume everyone lives in the same urban liberal bubble as them”. 

HuffPost UK understands they have been underlining a review by the Australian Labor Party into why its sister party lost what was billed as the continent’s “climate change election” in May. 

Despite warming seas destroying the Great Barrier Reef and extreme drought on the continent, the ALP’s bold green offer, which included a similarly ambitious carbon cut and the phasing out of petrol vehicles, fell flat in mining communities in Queensland and Hunter Valley. 

The review found that while ALP won young and more affluent older voters, blue collar workers in mining and industrial communities thought the party “considered their jobs unworthy” and “mining communities viewed the language of climate change as a threat to their jobs”. 

One union source told HuffPost UK, however, that the Labour Party was running the risk of repeating the ALP’s mistakes. 

“The autopsy into the Australian Labor Party’s defeat is a painful lesson in what can go wrong when politicians assume everyone lives in the same urban liberal bubble as them,” they said. 

“Of course we must seriously address climate change but you have to approach it in a thought-through way and that also means listening to the workers whose jobs are at risk.

“Too many middle class campaigners hide behind language of a ‘just transition’ as though it will make up for people losing their job or stop them worrying if they can pay their mortgage.”

They added: “It would be a massive mistake to ignore unions representing the people Labour need to win over, just as it would be a mistake to ignore the lessons of Australia or the yellow vests movement in France.

“You can have all the radical green policies in the world but if you aren’t in power then you can’t implement a single one.”

Labour said the manifesto would be decided upon this week at the party’s so-called clause V meeting. 

The meeting will include trade unions, affiliates and Labour reps from across the UK.