How Green is our rallying cry after fuel dispute

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Indy Politics

In terms of timing, the Green Party could not have chosen a better weekend for its conference. After the petrol blockades highlighted Britain's heavyreliance on fuel, the annual gathering began yesterday, with a new-found purpose.

In terms of timing, the Green Party could not have chosen a better weekend for its conference. After the petrol blockades highlighted Britain's heavyreliance on fuel, the annual gathering began yesterday, with a new-found purpose.

Suddenly, topics such as the disastrous consequences of environmental pollution and sustainability are not being laughed off as insignificant and barmy - they are being discussed by the whole country.

Chris Keene, who is on the party's campaigns committee, said there was now a "real opportunity" to get the green message across, and the public was now ready to look atalternatives to cars.

"The blockade would not have happened if the Government had invested the tax rises into better public transport and cycle ways," he said. "Nobody is going to stop using their car unless there are better provisions, and people understand that now.

"There is now an interesting debate about how we can decrease environmental pollution, and we have to explain that global warming is not isolated from them using their car every day. The last week has shown there are very few green politicians out there who genuinely want to get people out of their cars for good, not just score political points."

The Green Party's aim during its four-day conference in Weston-super-Mare is to prove it is now part of the mainstream of politics.

Although the party's popularity peaked in the 1989 European election when it won 15 per cent of the vote, the past year has seen a respectable comeback. It now has two MEPs in Strasbourg, one MSP in Holyrood and three Greater London Authority members.

"People cannot dismiss us as irrelevant," Mr Keene said. "Ice is melting on the North Pole as a result of global warming and we have an information role. And how can we expect the Third World to become more environmentally friendly if we are not even willing to invest in public transport?"

But the Greens may have less success achieving widespread support for their policies. Activists passed a motion to increase income tax in an attempt to combat the poverty trap. Under their proposals, there would be a universal citizen's income.

"We want more redistribution," Mr Keene said. "We want the richer to have less and the poorer to have more."

Other planks of the agenda have include the party's proposals to fight globalisation because its spread would mean an "end to democracy".

Under the party's policy, companies would no longer be allowed to operate in a country unless its base was there. Other debates will include motions on nuclear power, the denial of leadership and regional government in England.

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