The Green Party has been on quite a journey these past two decades. In the 1989 European elections, the party won an astonishing 15 per cent of the national vote. Two Brussels seats followed in 1999. And on 6 May Caroline Lucas has a strong chance of becoming the Greens' first representative in the Westminster parliament, as the party's leader contests the constituency of Brighton Pavilion.
The Greens unveiled their election manifesto yesterday in their top target seat (one of 300 they are contesting nationwide). Their economic proposals – which include abolishing prescription charges and increasing income taxes – are less than convincing. But, as one would expect, their proposals to reduce national carbon emissions demonstrate a radicalism that puts the larger parties, which all claim to be serious about preventing runaway global warming, to shame.
The reintroduction of the fuel duty escalator, imposing VAT on aviation fuel, subsidised train and bus fares, cuts to road building, new taxes on pollutants, free insulation for homes – these are the sort of policies, painful though many would initially be, that are necessary to generate the radical shift in our behaviour needed to reduce our carbon emissions. The Greens deserve credit for having the courage to put them in their manifesto.
Just as we should not fear the consequences of a hung parliament, we should not be afraid of representation from some of the smaller parties in our national parliament. And voters should certainly not swallow the line put about by the larger parties that a vote for a party like the Greens is wasted.
We should learn from experience of political systems beyond these shores. The Green Party in Germany was a coalition partner in Berlin between 1998 and 2005. It is no coincidence that Germany is now a world leader in the production of renewable energy. If Britain were to implement serious electoral reform, creating a fairer voter system (and the prospect of a hung parliament brings that tantalisingly close), our own Green Party's great journey could be just beginning.