'I'll be voting for you because I believe in the future'

"How would you like," says Caroline Lucas to passers-by, fat green rosette on her lapel, "to vote for social justice and the environment, and be part of history as well?" (She means by electing her as the Member for Brighton Pavilion, and thus Britain's first Green MP.)

When The Independent accompanied her on canvassing at the weekend, a substantial number of the people she approached in North Laine, heart of bohemian Brighton, said they would – or would at least think about it.

Most succinct was decorator Paul Potts, 49: "I'll be voting for you because I believe in the future." Others were more considered. Market research manager Britt Ashton, 32, pushing her young son in his pram, said: "I'm an ex-politics student so I'll do my research, but I've voted Green in the past and I may do again. Gordon Brown's light touch on the economy got us into this mess and I don't know that the Tories would do any better."

Acupuncturist Tim Ings, 31, said: "The environment is the most important issue and I'm totally disillusioned with all the other parties." Teacher Jacquie Punter said: "I vote Green in the local elections, and if I think I can do so safely without letting the Conservatives in, I will, but otherwise I'll vote Labour."

These are not unexpected responses in North Laine, where the tattoo parlours and candle shops exemplify "alternative" Brighton – Britain's most radical city, with its raffish, agit-prop lifestyle. This is fertile ground for the Greens, and with her new slogan – "Fair Is Worth Fighting For" – Ms Lucas is making inroads.

But North Laine is only one part of the constituency, and where Pavilion borders the Sussex countryside, two big wards are solidly Tory. It is here that the real fight will take place, with the former banker Charlotte Vere generating substantial noise for the Conservatives. Yet the Greens take hope from the poll which shows a lot of voters will switch if it means the Tory bandwagon can be stopped.

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