Greens from Hereford and Worcester joined with Malvern Green Party on Friday, for an afternoon with party leader Caroline Lucas, on an eventful day in British politics. Caroline is Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but actually spent her childhood in Malvern.
On the day after the High Court ruling that Parliament must be consulted on the terms of Brexit, and only a few hours after another Conservative MP resigned their seat forcing a by-election, Caroline outlined in her consistently positive way the urgency of building progressive alliances.
She explained how many people voted for Brexit partly out of frustration with out of touch politicians and a sense of a lack of control. Voting reform to ensure every vote counts was the foundation for for further progressive change and should therefore be the key principle in forming such alliances.
She mentioned how she had been subject to some unpleasant social media messages in the last 24 hours. ‘People need to understand parliamentary scrutiny on Brexit isn’t about whether or not we leave. That decision has been taken. Article 50 is about where we are going. The level of anger demonstrates the depth to which trust in political processes has fallen.’
People were getting cross about the idea of a second referendum being ‘ask the same question again and again until you get the answer you want’, but a second one wouldn’t be the same question, it would be on what Brexit actually looks like for trade, environmental and employee protection and free movement of labour. In fact, Caroline felt that a General Election would be a more positive way of consulting the British people about the outcome of the negotiations.
‘We need to change the whole way we do politics’, she argued. ‘Parliament and councils must be more reflective of the communities we serve. Parliament is getting better – we’ve converted one bar into a crèche – but it is still a very difficult environment for most people – a kind of Hogwarts.’
Mentioning how Greens in Richmond yesterday agreed to stand down and support the Liberal Democrat against Zac Goldsmith, she added ‘Labour is now key, and electoral reform is now in Labour’s interests. It is vital to be talking to other parties. We need to be smarter, so that we can change the game once and for all.’
‘Time is running out. The climate crisis is urgent, inequality is urgent, the breakdown of our public services is urgent’, she said, before urging us not to give up on the fight for a genuinely public NHS.
A question and answer session followed. One questioner asked ‘What keeps you awake at night?’ to which she replied ‘When we understand so much about it, why we are not dealing with the climate crisis more urgently?’ She went on to explain how dealing with the issue is a win-win: more jobs, a better environment, better health and less poverty, yet so often it is presented as something costly to deal with.
Responding to a question about Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline explained that although she got on very well with him personally and liked him, Labour had one leader and two policies on many things, where the Greens had two leaders and one policy! Labour as a whole still don’t see the importance of electoral reform, or of the urgency of the climate crisis. But this was changing, she argued, as Labour began to realise it cannot win a general election under the current system on its own.
Caroline gave some advice for dealing with cynicism. ‘Online polls around actual policy show massive support for what the Green Party stands for. People like green policies when they see them. We have to ask people what they really want, big questions about what makes them happy and what they want for our country, and then connect that to our policies.’
She agreed that Greens have been right recently to emphasise social justice, as a way to deal with the myth that it is a one-issue party. But she felt it important now to rebalance that slightly on the environmental priorities as these have such huge implications for human health and happiness. ‘Air quality is a big issue for young and old. Fracking will have such massive implications for constituencies if done at scale that even Tory MPs will start to oppose it.’
‘Anyone who lazily alleges that all politicians are the same has never met Caroline Lucas MP’, said Rob Hattersley, from Hereford Green Party. As a final contributor from the audience said ‘Thank you Caroline for being a quiet, civilised, courageous voice of reason in the madhouse of parliament’.