Caroline Lucas: You Ask The Questions

The MEP for South-East England answers your questions, such as 'What is your worst envirocrime? And will there be a Green PM?'
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The Independent Online

You are standing to be Green Party leader. Will having a leader really make a difference, given how small the Green Party is?

Jim Killock, via email

Electing our first leader will be recognised as a significant turning point for the Greens, and will help us communicate more effectively. There's a lot of hard work to be done, but the party taking this step is proof that we are serious about putting our radical voice into the mainstream of politics.

I'd love to vote Green in the next general election, but there is never a candidate in my area. Can you sort this out?

Michael McNab, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

The absence of state funding for political parties in this country has made it difficult for us to afford to field candidates in every constituency in the country – scandalously in the UK, political activity comes at a price. If elected, I'm determined that we field a record number of candidates in the next general election (and if you would like to contribute financially towards this, let me know!).

I'm a bit of a leftie, but heartily sick of Labour. Give me three good reasons to vote Green instead.

Graeme Ross, Twyford, Berkshire

There are so many to choose from, I think I'll need to give myself four. We are the only party opposing the privatisation of schools and hospitals; our councillors are working to ensure people get paid a real living wage; we opposed the Iraq war from the start, and didn't flip-flop like the Liberal Democrats; and we are completely committed to scrapping Trident nuclear missiles.

I'm a prospective Green MEP for the East of England. If you win the leadership of the party, what will be your priorities for turning us into a machine that can gain MPs and challenge the mainstream greenwash?

Rupert Read, Norwich, Norfolk

Number one will be attracting into the party more of the many progressive people who are opposed to privatisation and environmental destruction, and who have always wished us well, so that together we can start fighting back.

Is publishing your members' contact details consistent with your position on civil liberties?

Natalie Best, Godalming, Surrey

No. But no one has ever suggested that the party should do that. I'm sorry to say that this newspaper wrongly reported that last month.

You displaced a much-loved local Green to become the candidate for the Brighton Pavilion constituency – the party's best chance of winning a Commons seat. Why? What are your links with Brighton, please?

Edgar Gavin, Brighton, East Sussex

Brighton councillor Keith Taylor is a fantastic talent who will become a superb MEP. However, a number of party members in Brighton asked me to stand because they felt the first Green MP should be someone with parliamentary experience. I am delighted and honoured to have been selected in the vote of the local party that followed. I have represented the people of Brighton at the European Parliament for the past nine years.

What do you say to people like Julie Burchill, who think Greens are just a bunch of middle-class hypocrites who would deny the working classes the same pleasures they enjoy?

Thomas Champion, Colchester, Essex

People who hold those views are themselves often people who earn considerably more than most Greens, and don't usually spend their time fighting to give a family free insulation for their home, to get workers a living wage, or to help save a local hospital. Greens work on these things every day, and should not be too bothered by a controversialist with a book to promote.

The police always accuse climate protesters of underhand tactics. Climate protesters always accuse the police of being overzealous. Who should we trust?

Nigel Stuart, Ipswich, Suffolk

Trust your own judgement. The police brought batons and riot shields to Kingsnorth last week, and from the protesters, they confiscated board games and toilet paper. Which group sounds more dangerous to you?

I am 24. Will there be a Green prime minister in my lifetime? And will it be you?

Helen Faulkner, Windsor, Berkshire

Absolutely. After all, Labour went from their first MP to government in 24 years – and that was without the added urgency of external environmental pressures. But it's more likely to be someone from your generation than mine – maybe Norwich opposition leader Adrian Ramsay, who is likely to be our first deputy leader, and is just 26 – so I will be counting on him when I'm spending more time with my family!

Do you ever despair about the fate of the world?

Ryan Hollings, St Ives, Cornwall

In my darker moments, it is tempting. But I always find hope in all the wonderful, inspiring people who are working for a better, fairer, safer world.

Isn't a Green vote a wasted vote? None of your candidates have the slightest chance of being elected to Parliament under the current system.

Francesca McAteer, Humberston, North-east Lincolnshire

Not so! The system is unfair, but nevertheless Greens look set to win in Brighton Pavilion at the next election, where I'm standing, and we are close in Norwich South and Lewisham Deptford as well. And in those places where electing a Green candidate is still unlikely, voting for the Green Party still has an important impact, by putting pressure on the other parties to change.

Will a new American president make a big difference to climate change?

Aidan Simpson, London

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have said they will sign up to a new climate deal, and both accept the need for more ambitious emission-reduction targets. Whether they will really deliver on those pledges, stand up to corporate vested interests, and really make it a priority for their presidencies remains to be seen. Personally, I would much prefer Obama, but frankly either has to be better than George Bush.

Why do so many British people still not believe in climate change?

Fraser Sullivan, Dorking, Surrey

I think many people are genuinely confused – confused by a government that says climate change is the greatest threat that we face, and then gives the go-ahead to the largest expansion of aviation in a generation, and promotes the idea of more coal-fired power stations, like Kingsnorth.

What is the point of the Green Party when all the mainstream parties are embracing the environmental agenda?

Antonya King, Middlesborough

All too often, other parties make "green" all about "taxes", and use it as an excuse to raise money from ordinary people. Any money collected through incentives to cut carbon should be invested in saving us money and energy, like Green councillors are doing by providing free insulation. Add to this the fact that the other parties also manage to have the wrong policies on everything from fighting inequality to preventing crime.

What is your worst envirocrime?

Jamie Carling, Havant, Hampshire

The European Parliament moves from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week each month, and very occasionally, doing the journey by plane is unavoidable. I'm working to abolish the Strasbourg sessions – shifting between the two cities is costly, wasteful, and time-consuming.

Prove that your party isn't all tofu-munching hemp-wearers. Tell us what you do for fun.

Pauline Kitson, Rushden, Northamptonshire

I love dancing, gin and tonic and watching The West Wing with my family – though not necessarily all at the same time.