Greens to show why we should back them

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They may not have a leader or any MPs, but the Greens wants to show people they are a potent political force. This weekend at their spring conference in Chesterfield the Greens of England and Wales will make their final play for public support before the election.

They may not have a leader or any MPs, but the Greens wants to show people they are a potent political force. This weekend at their spring conference in Chesterfield the Greens of England and Wales will make their final play for public support before the election.

With only £50,000 to spend on their campaign, and less space for TV and radio broadcasts than other political parties, many may reach the ballot box hearing almost nothing about Green policies. Most of the electorate think Greens are a one-issue party with a robust environmental policy, against genetically modified food and for sustainable development.

But since they were founded in the Seventies by a solicitor who was moved by an article about the rainforest in Playboy, they have developed a range of radical policies, including renationalising the railways, opposing British entry to the euro and increasing income tax for top earners.

"We need to show we have a wide range of policies," said Penny Kemp, who chairs the Green Party executive. "On pensions, we believe in a citizen's income. We are dedicated to social justice and against privileged education. People should be free to grow hemp and we feel strongly that marijuana should be available for medicinal purposes."

The party has had some success. It has a spokesman in the Lords, two MEPs, three members of Ken Livingstone's Greater London Assembly, including the Mayor's environmental adviser, and a member of the Scottish Parliament. It also holds the balance of power on several English councils.

But this weekend, dreadlocked, sandal-wearing "fundi" Greens will debate with sharp-suited "realos" about sustainable tourism, whether to abolish private education, and ban scientific testing on primates. They will also discuss whether to host a demonstration outside the American embassy in London in protest at President George Bush's policies on climate change.

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