Thursday, 17 February 2011

Caroline Lucas interview

Global warming means redistribution not revolution would be the order of the day under a Green Party government. So says its leader and only MP Caroline Lucas, who is prepared to leave the main base of capitalism and ownership intact to concentrate on increasing renewable energy sources and cutting CO2 emissions. Tasks she feels are crucial to the earth’s future and those living on it.

Willing to work with members of all parties who share a vision of progressive policies Lucas believes Labour will need to change dramatically to be seen as progressive and expects the Lib Dem’s falling electoral support to ensure the coalition government lasts its full five year term in office. By then she hopes the Greens, in 2014, will have knocked Nick Griffin from his perch as a Member of the European Parliament [MEP] in the north west, the Green Party having come just 5,000 votes short of beating the BNP leader at the 2009 elections, by which time Lucas was set on becoming an MP after a decade as an MEP. 

Nine months in then does he feel she’s achieved anything as MP, especially as she’s the only Green at Westminster? “Like all opposition MPs I can’t write laws, but I can raise issues that cannot aired elsewhere. That means highlighting the effect of coalition cuts upon the communities in my constituency. It means bringing distinctive positions - for example on the Afghanistan debate last year my amendment was the only one that proposed withdrawal. And it means bringing more attention to the need to tackle the climate crisis with action that can improve the quality of life for all of us, such as better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

Locally, campaigning has helped persuade Tesco not to develop over a community garden in Brighton and I managed to arrange a meeting with third sector groups and a Cabinet Office minister. At this campaigners argued the Big Society rhetoric needs to be backed up with proper spending. There have also been some successes in weekly surgeries, following up everything from housing problems to visa applications” said Lucas with a modest smile.

She welcomed the election of Ed Milliband as Labour leader. She certainly hopes he will be better than the previous two; especially Tony Blair who she believes should be indicted for war crimes for his actions in Iraq. She was left t dismayed by the ex-Prime Minister using the launch of this autobiography to suggest Iran should be next on the list of countries to be invaded by the USA and, almost certainly, Britain.

Milliband has distanced himself from Blair and Brown’s Iraq adventures but it will take more than that to convince Caroline Lucas that Labour is progressive. “Labour increased inequality, carbon emissions rose and Ed himself favoured new nuclear and clean coal projects, spending that could have gone on energy efficiency and renewables. Labour’s ability to challenge coalition policies on everything from academies to increasing NHS privatisation is fatally undermined by the fact the party spent 13 years paving the way for the coalition’s assault on public services.”

It’s an assault she stands willing to oppose. She expects it might be a long fight because “their low poll ratings mean the Liberal-Democrats must hang on in government in the hope that by 2015 the cuts have somehow led to an economic revival.”

She expects to see strikes, but hopes they are the last resort and wants to see users of public services at the forefront of any campaign to defend care homes, libraries and the NHS. The Greens were the only party to fight the election on the basis that the budget shortfall could be overcome by reforming the taxation system. Lucas describes as “ridiculous a situation where the top 10% of income earners pay less in % terms than the bottom 10%. We want to use tax to reduce inequality, and propose raising taxation from 36% of Gross Domestic Product this year to 45% by 2013.  Part of this can be done by ensuring HM Revenue and Customs are given the resources to tackle tax avoidance and evasion to ensure the rich pay their fare share.”

Lucas though expects the rich and well to do to be around for sometime yet. She’s unconvinced by socialist arguments that only after a complete transformation of society can global warming be tackled. Profit is certainly not a dirty word. True she hopes to see many more workers co-operatives in the near future but she’d also “like to see significant resources in a Green Investment Bank to assist major companies exploit opportunities on, amongst others, renewable energy sources and a massive programme of housing insulation.

This is because I genuinely believe scientists when they say the next 5 to 10 years are going to be so important to tackling climate change. Carbon emissions must be brought down to prevent the earth continuing to warm up as otherwise we face a catastrophe. We need to cut it now, and that means working with what we’ve got as well as working towards something a lot more equal in the future.” 

As part of this she hopes to see more Green’s on councils and in Parliament. In the North the party currently has only a handful of northern councillors - in Huddersfield, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield. Yet it didn’t stop it almost winning a seat in the 2009 northwest European elections. Capturing 127,000 votes was impressive, but the BNP did better and with 132,000 took the eighth seat under the proportional representation system employed in the elections. The Greens had managed to persuade George Galloway’s Respect party not to stand, but Bob Crow’s NO2EU and the Socialist Party proved more intractable and their 50,000 votes might have been more usefully employed in defeating Nick Griffin.

Caroline Lucas hopes those opposed to the fascists won’t make the same mistake in 2014 by standing against each other. Whilst you suspect she may be a little optimistic on this, and many of the other things she hopes to achieve, you do detect behind the smiles and endearing charm a determination to get things done for the benefit of all. Which isn’t something you feel about most mainstream politicians. 

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