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UK Greens win historic first seat in parliament

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, won a hotly-contested race in Brighton Pavilion to become the Greens’ first-ever member of parliament. Lucas thanked supporters for “putting the politics of hope above the politics of fear.” In the election at large, Labour and the Liberal Democrats lost seats while the Conservatives gained; however, the Conservatives failed to win a majority, making it possible that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will form a governing coalition.

In the second constituency targeted by the Greens, Norwich South, Adrian Ramsay came in fourth despite doubling the Green vote from 2005 to 14.9%. Despite the loss, Greens pointed to recent local victories as evidence that they’re on track to take power in Norwich by 2011, which would mark another first for the party. In the third targeted seat, Lewisham Deptford, Darren Johnson took 11.1%, and Tony Juniper managed 7.6% in Cambridge.

At The Guardian, George Monbiot commented on Lucas’ election to parliament:

It’s a massive breakthrough, not only because she’s a brilliant, charismatic, humane politican who will enrich parliamentary life, but also because it proves it can be done, even under our antiquated political system.

Unlike many European countries that elect their parliaments using proportional representation, UK elections use first-past-the-post voting, contributing to electoral chaos. From The Guardian’s live election coverage:

A hung parliament is virtually inevitable. With more than 500 seats counted, the BBC is predicting that the Conservatives will end up with 306 seats, Labour 262 seats and the Lib Dems 55 seats [325 seats are needed for a majority]. The Conservatives are currently on 37% of the vote, Labour on 28% and the Lib Dems on 23%.

The Guardian reports that the Liberal Democrats may demand a switch to proportional representation as a condition for supporting one of the larger parties in coalition. The Greens, who won 8.7% of the vote in last year’s European elections, also support proportional representation.

After learning of her historic victory, Caroline Lucas gave the following statement:

“The emphatic support of voters in Brighton Pavilion show that they do want to support a party whose values represent fairness, social justice and environmental well-being. They have shown that they are prepared to put their trust in the Greens, despite the overwhelming national media focus on the three largest parties and a voting system that is fundamentally undemocratic. I feel humbled by their trust in me, and I am excited by this vote of confidence and I’m looking forward to the challenging task of fully representing the voters of Brighton.

“This victory is no accident: it is the result of the hard work and commitment of thousands of Green Party members and supporters not only in Brighton but from right across the country over the past months and years. It is their work and support that has helped deliver this win, and the victory is as much theirs as it is mine.

“Thanks to the confidence that the voters of Brighton Pavilion have shown, Green principles and policies will now have a voice in Parliament. Policies such as responding to climate change with a million new ‘green’ jobs in low-carbon industries, fair pensions and care for older people, and stronger regulation of the banks will be heard in the House of Commons. I will also use my influence as an MP in the city of Brighton & Hove to push for affordable housing for the city, a new secondary school for the city, and greater backing for the city’s creative industries.

“Finally, as this election shows, the first-past-the post voting system used for general elections is utterly discredited. I will be strongly backing calls for a referendum to replace it with a form of proportional representation that properly reflects the needs and views of 21st century voters. If a form of proportional representation is introduced, the Green Party is confident that its true level of support nationally can be represented properly.”

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UK: Green Party candidate polling 8 point lead in Brighton

The United Kingdom will hold a parliamentary election sometime between now and June 3.   Although the official date hasn’t been announced, candidates are up and running.  Green Party of England and Wales party leader Caroline Lucas represents South East England in the European Parliament.  She’s standing in the UK Parliamentary seat of Brighton Pavilion in the upcoming election.  The Greens already control the local Brighton council and, as we’ve noted before, it looks like Lucas has opened up a small but significant lead in an independent poll.

Today’s UK Guardian has a brief article explaining why Lucas’ chances make this one of the more interesting contests in the upcoming election.

“One more Tory MP, one more Labour MP – what difference is that going to make?” says Lucas. “The first Green MP, I think, would have a far greater effect.” To that end, she is fighting hard, and doing as well as you’d expect among people who live in Brighton’s bohemian centre – though much of the battle will be fought in the seat’s more suburban patches, split between traditionally ­Labour-supporting estates and more Tory-favouring areas, with extensive gardens.

The Greens are on the upswing in the UK, with 125 councilors not including Scotland, but this Brighton Pavilion is their best shot at breaking into Parliament.  In the last election, the Greens nearly tied for second with the Conservatives in this constituency.   The party has built up a strong local base and now Lucas is in a position to campaign as the real progressive choice against the Conservatives.

I wish there was a way to embed the video accompanying the article into this post, because its fascinating.  Journalist John Harris doesn’t pretend to be completely disinterested in politics.  He tells everyone straightforwardly that he’s a disgruntled Labour voter.   All three candidates address him not so much as a journalist, but as a potential convert.

He asks tough questions of all three candidates, but completes the video by admitting that as a disgruntled Labour voter, he’s got a dilemma.  Although he’s concerned about voting in the Conservatives, he no longer feels that New Labour represents his politics.  He wonders if its only his “old tribal loyalties” that would stop him from voting Green.

This will be one to watch.

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