Election '97: Support goes to greenest candidate credentials all important

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Sara Parkin was a spokesperson for the Green Party until 1992. In 1996 she helped to found the Real World coalition, an alliance of 32 pressure groups including Oxfam and Friends of the Earth which aims to promote issues of environment and equality.

How will you vote?

I don't yet know.

Do you have any preferences at all at the moment?

Well, as a member of the Real World organisation, I have asked each of the candidates in my constituency to respond to each of the Real World's 12 "action points". When they respond, I will make my judgement on how to vote.

You don't see an election as a battle between Major and Blair?

No, I want to use what limited power I have in the British electoral system to get the greenest bottoms on parliamentary seats as I can. Real World is also going to do an analysis of the party manifestos according to those points.

Do you think that the parties have a long way to go with these issues at the moment?

Oh, absolutely. This has to move centre stage. I have been involved in environmental campaigning for 30 years now, and all the evidence is that the rate of environmental degradation is accelerating. Our sense of urgency is enhanced, not diminished.

You were involved in the Green Party, until you stepped down as Chair. Do you ever regret that decision?

No, I don't. I regret that it was necessary, but I don't regret doing it. My decision on how I will vote will be for an electable candidate, and I think that's very important.

My reason for withdrawing from the Green Party was that it did not want to think strategically about how it could operate within the British electoral system. It's the ideas we want to get into the public domain, the ideas we want to get into power.

Are you optimistic that what you would term a Green government will come about before it's too late?

Well, we've got no judgement about what is and what isn't too late. I think we've got to do something pretty swiftly, we've got to reduce our impact on the environment by about 50 per cent within the next 30 to 40 years. I think the evidence will be delivered increasingly to governments from the environment and the impact of the degrading environment on people and on the economy which are already increasingly visible - and so governments will go green. What sort of government that is, I don't know.

In Germany, you've got the German Greens now well positioned to perhaps be in a coalition government with the Social Democrats after the next election. In some cases it will be green parties providing the vehicles, in other cases it will be either green parties or green movements being the catalyst, but one way or the other, government is going to go green. It's not a question of whether they do or not, it's when and how.

I get asked by people "who shall I vote for?" I shall be encouraging everybody that does to get the Real World list and ask the candidates. These are the issues that really matter.

Interview by Ben Summers