Greens see head of steam in support: Party launches European manifesto

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Indy Politics
THE Green Party launched its European election manifesto with the bravest of faces yesterday, despite having the highest of mountains to climb.

Unless they achieve a spectacular turnaround, the Greens seem set to be the only party with candidates across the country likely to suffer a larger collapse in support than the Conservatives on 9 June.

At the European election in 1989, the party reached its highest point with 15 per cent of the UK vote. But at the 1992 general election the party won only 1.3 per cent.

However, John Cornford, one of the party's two national speakers, said that in last week's local government elections the Greens had won 8.9 per cent of the vote in the London borough wards where it had stood candidates. 'A head of steam is building up,' he said.

Of all the parties fielding candidates throughout Britain, only the Greens rejected the Maastricht treaty, he added. They want a referendum in which they would try to persuade the electorate to repudiate the accord.

At a time when the 'grey' parties debate the move to a single European currency, the Greens say a multitude of currencies should blossom within Britain. They want to encourage the local credit schemes now spreading around Britain in which people trade services and work without using notes or coins.

The party favours ultra- subsidiarity, in which most decision-making is devolved to local councils and regions. Where there has to be co-operation at a higher level, national governments should have much less say.

The Greens oppose the expansion of free trade encouraged by the European single market and the Gatt world trade agreement. Instead they propose policies to encourage local trading and make communities self-sufficient in food, services and manufacturing.

Near the top of the party's hate-list is the trans-European road network. The party wants a swift end to road construction and 'mad car disease' with a switch to investment in rail.

Mr Cornford, a television producer and presenter, said: 'In 1989 we changed the face of politics for a while; for five minutes green issues were top of every party's political agenda.'

There are presently 28 Green MEPs in the European Parliament, forming the fourth-largest political bloc. The European Union's ecological parties have co-operated extensively in creating a common platform for the election early next month.

The law is unable to protect England's officially designated wildlife sites from deterioration and damage, according to a report to Parliament by the National Audit Office published yesterday.

The main cause of damage to the 3,700 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England is farming operations, following by a lack of the land management practices needed to preserve their characteristic wildlife such as clearing invading scrub. An analysis of damage in north-east England found that only in one-fifth of cases of damage to SSSIs was the law that was written to create and preserve them - the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - broken. Prosecutions were rare and fines small.