Caroline Lucas: The Green Party's first MP on getting arrested, the atmosphere at PMQs, and agreeing with Russell Brand

Lucas is MP for Brighton, Pavilion - the only Green in Parliament

Oscar Quine
Saturday 10 January 2015 01:00
Lucas says: 'Russell Brand has successfully rattled cages in Parliament'
Lucas says: 'Russell Brand has successfully rattled cages in Parliament'

How do you spend the weekends?

I have two kids and a husband and a dog – and the dog rules the roost. He's a rescue from the RSPCA called Alfie. Being in Brighton, we're blessed with beautiful countryside. My ideal weekend would be to go out on the Downs with the family and the dog and have a pub lunch and take in a film afterwards.

You were named 'best MP of 2014'. What makes for a good politician?

A good politician has to be really dogged, to not take no for an answer and to bash away in Parliament to get to the answers that need to be had; compassion to understand and to have real empathy with your constituents. Integrity is, sadly, what I think a lot of politics is lacking.

Do politicians get a bad rap?

I think they do but that, frankly, many of them deserve it. I'm thinking of, for example, the Lib Dems promising that they wouldn't increase tuition fees. And the Conservatives saying there would be no top-down [re]organisation of the NHS and then they did exactly that.

Prime Minister's Questions is often described as a pantomime. Is the chamber an intimidating place?

It's set up to be deliberately intimidating. You have the Government and the opposition, face-to-face, two swords apart. I don't think it does the best job for our constituents. I can compare it to the European Parliament where I spent 10 years before being elected to Westminster. There, there was a much greater stress on what we did agree on.

What do you make of Russell Brand?

I think he has very successfully rattled people's cages in Parliament – and so he should. I don't agree with everything he says, not least that we shouldn't vote. But what he went on to say was "Give us something worth voting for" and that is a really important message. Who's taking the environmental crisis seriously? Who's genuinely putting the needs of the poorest at the top of the agenda? Who's talking about scrapping nuclear weapons? None of the main parties are.

You were arrested for your involvement in the fracking protests. Does peaceful direct action work?

It's not something that I did lightly. I recognise that as an MP I have access to means for change that aren't open to everybody and I tried to use those. But it felt like the Government had their fingers pushed very firmly into their ears. When many of my own constituents were writing to me asking what I was going to do about it – and they themselves were taking peaceful action in Balcombe – it felt that I should be there alongside them. In terms of whether it works: that peaceful direct action successfully put the issue at the top of the agenda.

Are your kids interested in politics?

They're 18 and 21 and yes, both are. The elder one is doing a Masters in International Relations and Politics and the younger one is doing politics A-level. It's in their genes. When I was elected to Oxfordshire County Council back in 1993, my eldest son was still in a papoose. I always say that's why I got elected, because on the doorsteps people found it quite sweet.

What's your desert-island track?

Nina Simone's "Let It Be Me". It reminds me of when [my husband] Richard and I were getting together.

Any New Year's resolutions?

More time walking the dog. Less time doing emails.


Caroline Lucas, 54, is MP for Brighton, Pavilion – the only Green in Parliament. She was educated at Malvern Girls’ College, an independent school, and then the University of Exeter, where she gained a PhD in English Literature. She lives with her family in Brighton

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