Archive for the tag 'Caroline Lucas'

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In the United Kingdom’s May 7 2015 parliamentary election, the UK Greens quadrupled their national vote from 265,000 in 2010 to 1,140,000 (4%) in 2015. Despite this huge increase in votes, the Greens held steady at one seat in parliament, coming in second in four other races. Former party leader Caroline Lucas not only retained […]

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Decca Aitkenhead meets Green party leader Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas: ‘We’ve got to get better at painting a positive vision of a post-carbon world. This is not about sitting around a candle in a cave’

Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian, Monday 18 May 2009

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, London.
Photograph: David Levene/David Levene

Caroline Lucas should be the luckiest woman in politics. More than 20 years ago she joined a minor, leftfield party: today its defining issue has become the biggest political issue in the world. Bingo! Only politics, of course, is not that simple. As Winston Churchill famously pointed out, democracy has been described as “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried”, and if you really want to see what he meant, spend an hour with the leader of the Green party.

Less than three weeks away from the European elections, the dilemmas facing Lucas are daunting. If she campaigns on climate change alone, she demotes her party to the status of a single-issue outfit. However, if she broadens its platform with a comprehensive policy package, she risks exiling it to the unelectably leftwing wilderness. If the Greens ditch some of their policies in the interests of electability, they sacrifice their unique claim to integrity, and begin to look just like every other party. But their integrity is so precious to them that they have wasted the last 20 years fiddling over whether they can compromise their principles by putting on a suit and electing a single leader, while the planet has been burning.

They believe that only government action can save the planet now, so they are pinning all their hopes on Lucas taking the party’s one winnable Westminster seat, Brighton Pavilion, at the next general election. But even if she wins, does the party have enough time left to build a parliamentary movement? Probably not. Our electoral system makes a Green government all but unimaginable, and their core issue – climate change – is a nightmare to campaign on. No party has ever won by telling the country it can no longer enjoy the life it has taken for granted, and if Lucas tells voters the truth – that beating climate change means more than recycling plastic bags – she risks making her message disastrously unpopular.

Caroline Lucas keynote speech at the autumn co...
Image via Wikipedia

If all that makes Lucas the unluckiest woman in politics, she gives no impression of knowing it. When we meet at the MEP’s south London office, she is cheerfully engaging – a stylish dresser with a beautifully crisp voice and a bright, easy manner. She speaks quickly, as if accustomed to having little airtime and a lot to say, but instead of soundbites she talks in expansively thoughtful sentences, like a normal human being. She reminds me of the smartest women I knew in CND 25 years ago – the kind of women I used to imagine a Labour minister would look like.

Most of us wouldn’t even know Lucas if she sat next to us on a bus, though. It was only last September, after much agonising, that her party abandoned its tradition of collectivism and elected its first leader. “It was about having a face the country recognises – or hopefully,” she quickly qualifies, smiling bashfully, “comes to recognise. It was in recognition of the fact that people don’t really relate to abstract ideas, they relate more to the people who embody them.”

One of Britain’s only two Greens in the European parliament, Lucas, 49, has been an MEP for 10 years, having previously worked for the party, and then for Oxfam. Married with two children, she is a vegetarian – “I did try being a vegan,” she grins apologetically – and in the language of the Greens is a “spiky”, not a “fluffy”, by which they mean a moderniser. “My days in the party started as a press officer back in 1987, and I do remember then that when I was putting people up to go on TV programmes I’d be saying to them, ‘What are you planning to wear?’, and they’d be slightly offended that I’d even think of asking the question. But I do genuinely think that has changed, a lot. It’s a recognition, not that there’s some kind of terrible compromise about putting on a tie, but that actually you don’t want people to be focusing on what you look like but on what you’re saying.”

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