Green surge as main parties try to attract eco-vote

Environmental issues will be pushed up the agenda in the last 10 days of the election campaign, as Britain's major parties scuffle to attract the eco-vote, and the Greens remain on course to return their first MP to Parliament.

A poll for The IoS today reveals that almost six out of 10 voters believe green issues have been ignored by the main parties during the campaign. Amid frustration at the sidelining of environmental issues, a growing list of well-known figures from the world of showbusiness, literature and academia last night added their weight to the growing clamour for Britain to elect its first Green MP, hotly tipped to be the party leader, Caroline Lucas, in Brighton.

The call, from green supporters ranging from Greta Scacchi to Billy Bragg, comes in the midst of the most intense election campaign since environmentalists became a political force almost four decades ago. A record 335 Green candidates will stand in seats across the country – including a full slate in Greater London.

The Green Party launches a new billboard campaign this week, underlining its attempts to promote a comprehensive platform, rather than just policies on the environment. It will be challenged by the three main parties attempting to take the initiative on the environment.

Gordon Brown will launch Labour's Green Manifesto today at a "young people's mobilisation event" in central London. The Prime Minister will claim the blueprint would "create a greener Britain"; initiatives include cleaning up our energy supply, driving down transport emissions and "creating new jobs in a green economy".

But the paper, to be followed by similar pronouncements from the other parties, may not be enough to halt the Green surge in key seats including Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South and Lewisham.

Nick Howat, of the research company TNS-BMRB, said the prospect of a hung parliament could see even one Green MP wielding real influence. He added: "This would give a voice to the nearly 300,000 people in the UK who support the Green Party and are currently not represented in Parliament."

The party's top target is Brighton Pavilion, where MEP Ms Lucas is in pole position to take the seat from Labour. Ms Scacchi said: "I think Caroline Lucas will be very exciting if she gets in; let's hope it happens."

The comedian Mark Steel said the Greens had taken over from the traditional left. He said: "They've been able to do what the left hasn't – put forward an alternative to the free market and sound credible."

The Tories dedicated a chapter of their manifesto to green issues, with David Cameron pledging: "We will make it easier for people to go green, with incentives for people to do the right thing."

But the ComRes poll for The IoS found only 47 per cent of respondents believed Mr Cameron's commitment to the environment came "across as genuine".

Friends of the Earth condemned the Tories after only two candidates backed its package of proposals to slash UK emissions.