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Natalie Bennett: Why the UK Green Party is growing rapidly

Natalie Bennett, leader of the UK Green Party, writes in The Independent:

#GreenSurge: Did you know that the Green Party is growing rapidly? Let me tell you why

It’s not just our environmental policies that has led to a surge in our support

p Natalie Bennett“I’m sorry.” That was a message I delivered on Sunday to the students of Lancaster University, speaking as as a representative of my generation (I’m 48). “We’ve made a right mess of things.” In Britain, and around the globe, we’ve got three crises all coming together at the same time: our economic, social, environmental systems are all failing.

It’s clear that young people are increasingly understanding this – and that this timing isn’t coincidental, but the result of the failure of decades of free-market politics and economics, which saw greed as good and the natural world as a storehouse to be plundered. The coming together of these crises makes the need for genuine change in our economy and society apparent, and that understanding was evident in Lancaster — with more than 100 students giving up their weekend to talk politics. Continue Reading

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Green MP Caroline Lucas Speaks Out

The UK Huffington Post has this piece about popular Green Party Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas in the United Kingdom. Lucas is the first Green to get elected to Parliament in the UK.

Some excerpts:

Shortly after making history, Caroline Lucas gave a speech on Glastonbury’s pyramid stage, called for drugs to be decriminalised and won the Spectator’s much-coveted parliamentarian of the year award.

It’s been a busy year for Britain’s first Green MP – and she’s not planning to slow down. Her next project is shaking up the green movement, who she admits have “failed a little bit” to engage the public.

[…]

“Until recently I think the wider green movement and the green party included in it were too much focused, understandably, to waking people up to the climate crisis that would be rather than attracting people by painting a positive picture of what a zero carbon economy could look like. And I think fear isn’t a great motivating influence.”

For her, the green movement is about improving people’s lives – tackling the problem of fuel poverty, creating jobs and growth.

“Instead of just saying ‘we’ve got to act because climate change could be dreadful’, we’ve got to act because this could be a way of creating lots of jobs and also insulating lots of people’s homes and reducing their fuel bills so they’re not living in poverty and dying prematurely.

“I think we’ll have a much better job of doing it if we don’t always talk about the doom and gloom and hairshirts. The sense that the climate change agenda is one about doing without and giving things up is a very negative agenda. It turns people off.”

Sitting at a desk crowded with annotated print outs from bill sub-committees she speaks quickly, offering to help clarify quotes if my dictaphone can’t pick up it all up.

The sense of urgency is understandable. For Lucas, climate change has been relegated down the political agenda – and it’s up to her to tackle that within parliament as the most powerful representative of the green movement in the country.

“It’s just crazy”, Lucas says, that the Government aren’t instigating a 1930s style New Deal for green energy.

“We know climate change is happening, we know what is causing it, we know what we need to do to address it. What’s lacking isn’t the technical knowledge, it’s not even the money actually it just comes down to the political will to say ‘this is a priority’.”

She believe it comes down a Catch 22. Lucas thinks the politicians are waiting for the public pressure to act, whilst the public assume if it were serious the politicians would be acting already.

“That’s such a dangerous conclusion to draw because it is that serious and politicians aren’t doing something about it and they’re not doing anything about it because they don’t feel under the pressure from the public.”

Read the entire article here.

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UK Young Greens Membership Sees Spike After Lib Dems Back Student Fee Hikes

From Ekklesia:

Membership of the Young Greens increased by 10 per cent in just one weekend after Parliament voted to treble the cap on university fees in England to £9,000 per year.

The organisation, which is the youth wing of the Green Party of England and Wales, says that students and young people are abandoning their traditional support for the Liberal Democrats.

Students have expressed anger over the decision of 28 Liberal Decmocrat MPs, including the party’s leaders, to back the fee hike in a Commons vote last Thursday (9 December). Prior to this year’s general election, every Liberal Democrat MP pledged to vote against increase in fees.

On Friday, the day after the vote, the Green Party offered free membership for a limited period to students of any age and to people under 30. A similar offer was made by Plaid Cymru.

The Young Greens say there was a 10 per cent increase at the weekend, with 40-50 people joining in an hour at the busiest periods. Over 400 young people have joined the Greens since the vote in the Commons.

Responding to the recent education cuts, Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said “The huge hikes in tuition fees, together with the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and proposed cuts in college funding, amount to nothing less than a government assault on our young people – and an attack on the principles of universal education.”

She also countered the government’s claims that rises in tuition fees are the only way to fund the gap left by the 80 per cent cut to the teaching grant given to universities.

“There are alternatives,” insisted Lucas, “For example, a business education tax levied on the top four per cent of UK companies would require business to pay its fair share for the substantial benefits it receives from higher education. Tragically, such alternatives haven’t even been looked at. Instead we have this ill-considered policy rushed through in the face of huge public opposition.”

Meanwhile, Adam Pogonowski, a Young Green councillor in Cambridge, said, “This is a shocking and depressing vote against universal free education. The Green Party is the only party who believes in fair and free education for all. I urge all voters to vote for a party who will not break such fundamental promises with such flagrant disregard for those who elected them, in the local elections next May.”

The Young Greens have also responded to the reports that the police have used excessive force in the recent tuition fee protests by launching a petition that calls on the Metropolitan Police Authority to ban the practice of ‘kettling’- confining groups of protestors in small spaces and refusing to allow them to move, often for hours at a time.

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Caroline Lucas interview: “You can do politics without selling out”

The Independent UK has an interview with Caroline Lucas, the UK Green Party’s first member of parliament:

As far as landmark moments in the green movement go, last Thursday was a pretty big one. The environment featured in the news as usual – there was a report saying the UK could power itself six times over with offshore renewable energy, and activists scaled London’s BP building in protest at the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Both issues are pertinent to the greater cause, but the real sign of progress took place at the Houses of Parliament, where Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, was sworn in as Britain’s first Green Member of Parliament. Continue Reading

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Caroline Lucas interview in The Guardian

Aida Edamariam at The Guardian has an interview with Caroline Lucas, who recently became the Green Party of England and Wales’ first member of parliament:

Whatever you think of the Greens, it would have been hard not to feel that one of the few truly inspiring moments in last week’s election came at about 6am on Friday 7 May, when, in a hall on the cold seafront, Green party leader Caroline Lucas was declared MP for Brighton Pavilion, with a 1,200 majority. Jeremy Paxman immediately demanded which side she’d back if there was a coalition (neither, necessarily, she replied politely; she would approach all issues on a case-by-case basis), but an amateur video posted on YouTube gives more of a sense of the enormity of what she achieved for her party of more than 11,000 members, in a first-past-the-post system stacked against them: the camera, dipping and weaving erratically around the room, is trained on the audience as well as the podium. When the results are announced, it catches a supporter wiping away sudden tears. Continue Reading

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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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Green Party policies most popular in massive UK online poll

With the United Kingdom set to elect a new parliament on May 6th, the UK Green Party has something to be encouraged about: Green Party policies are the most popular of the six largest British parties in an online survey that matches respondents’ views to party platforms. Currently, Green policies have 25% support from over 224,000 respondents at Vote For Policies.

The UK Green Party is aiming to win its first seat in parliament this year. Caroline Lucas, the party’s leader and member of European parliament, is favored to win in Brighton Pavilion. Adrian Ramsay in Norwich South and Darren Johnson in Lewisham Deptford are also considered to be in the running for parliamentary seats. Tony Juniper in Cambridge has also climbed in recent polls.

Unlike many other European countries, the United Kingdom doesn’t have proportional representation. Rather, members of parliament are elected using first-past-the-post, the same system used for the US Congress (although the UK doesn’t suffer from anti-competitive ballot access laws of the kind that plague the US). There are hopes that this may change if neither of the traditional two big parties, the Conservatives and Labour, wins a majority in parliament. The Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third largest party, have a chance to make up the balance of power, and they may demand a switch to proportional representation as a condition of their support for a coalition government.

Best of luck to the UK Greens from your mates across the pond!

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UK Green Party fields record number of candidates for 2010 election

From Helene Mulholland at The Guardian:

The Green party is fielding a record number of candidates at the general election amid hopes it will win its first parliamentary seat.

The party is hoping to gain from voter disaffection with mainstream parties following the expenses scandal, campaigning under the slogan: “Fair is worth fighting for.”

More than 300 Green candidates will contest seats throughout the country – including a full slate in London, where the party is represented on the capital’s assembly by Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones. Continue Reading

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UK Green Party to field record number of candidates in 2010 election

eGov monitor has an excellent story on the UK Green Party’s plans to field over 300 candidates in the 2010 general elections, including the party’s first full slate in London and 3 candidates who are favored to become the Greens’ first members of parliament. Unlike other European states like Germany and France where Green parties have flourished in a democratic system using proportional representation, the United Kingdom elects its parliament using plurality or “first-past-the-post” voting. Therefore, the electoral growth of the UK Green Party should be of special interest to Greens in America, where Congress and state legislatures are still elected with first-past-the-post voting.