Election '97: Green Party Manifesto: Make EU more accountable

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The Independent Online
The Green Party launched its manifesto yesterday with policies to pull Britain out of the European Union, scrap all the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons and take the railways back into public ownership.

The party is fielding only 90 candidates at this election, as opposed to 255 the last time round in 1992. But that is still enough to earn it a party political broadcast, which will be transmitted next week.

The Greens are also concentrating on seats which are safe for the two main parties, because they believe that their vote is badly squeezed in marginals.

In its 23 years of existence the party has soared to the dizzy heights of winning 15 per cent of the votes in the 1989 European Parliament elections - and down to the lows of near bankruptcy, internal strife, splits and hundreds of lost deposits at the last general election. Overall, it won only 1.3 per cent of the vote where it stood. The highest vote it got in 1992 was 3.4 per cent in the Woodspring constituency south of Bristol.

Now the party is concentrating fewer of its slim resources on fighting general elections. Instead, it is concentrating more on local council elections - it has about 100 council members - and backing direct action campaigns such as those against road schemes.

It also wrote two parliamentary bills concerned with energy saving in homes and road-traffic reduction which, after much modification and watering down, have become Acts of Parliament. Both were taken up as Private Members Bills by Liberal Democrat MPs.

At yesterday's modest manifesto launch in London the press wanted to know if Swampy, the near-legendary anti-roads protester, was backing the Greens.

They were told that he was not a member but a supporter of the party's values. The Greens were paying for the mobile telephone used by Swampy and fellow protesters against Manchester airport's second runway scheme. "But it's not about media heroes," David Taylor, one of the Greens' two principal speakers, said.

The party is strongly opposed to a single European currency. Unless this is dropped and major Green reforms to make the union more accountable and decentralised are adopted, the manifesto says that "we will argue for withdrawal".

Under health policy, it wants "funds diverted from the search for elusive cures to research into alternative therapies and preventative measures".

A Green government would give local councils legal powers to take over empty buildings to house the homeless.

The party favours higher taxes on pollution, energy and natural resources and reductions in income tax and national insurance contributions. It continues to support a basic income, under which every adult would be given a weekly payment by the state to replace the current system of benefits and tax allowances.