Tue 05 May 2015

Caroline Lucas: The Green Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion talks to Latest

What has it meant to you to be the MP for Brighton Pavilion?
I’ve sought to be a good local MP, making sure Brighton always comes first and at the same time being a strong national voice. I have no Party Whip and it means I’m free to really represent my constituents.Caroline
Some of the most rewarding moments in my first term have come from successful local work: standing up for my constituents, our small businesses and local organisations. My weekly surgeries and additional ‘roving’ Surgeries across the constituency (and on the odd bus!) are incredibly important.
My Pavilion constituents have fed into every speech and vote. It’s a privilege to fight their corner.

What made you want to become an MP?
Because I believe in a fairer society and safer, healthier environment.

What did you do prior to being an MP?
I worked for Oxfam for 10 years, most recently as head of their Trade Policy team, and also had a year’s secondment to help set up a new International Trade section at the Department for International Development. I also spent 10 years in the European Parliament.

What has been your proudest achievement in the last five years?
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy some really effective collaboration with colleagues across the benches.
I’ve been able to push forward debates and press parties to be more progressive on key issues like a public and protected NHS and railway.
Small businesses are crucial to Brighton. I helped secure an extension to the government’s small business rates relief scheme, won the commitment from energy suppliers to give small businesses the choice to opt out of contracts each year and tabled a successful amendment to a Bill which means you cannot knock down a pub or change its use without planning permission – to protect our community pubs.
I successfully campaigned to make domestic abuse a specific offence – and there’s much more still to do. And my Bill to make age-appropriate personal, social, health and economic (including sex and relationships) education statutory in schools has been incredibly well-received across parties, the public and education and welfare groups across the country. That means a lot to me because it was inspired by the brilliant work at the local Patcham High School.

If re-elected, what are your key aims?
To oppose austerity, and champion far more ambitious policies to tackle the climate crisis and the crisis of cold homes.
I’d press parties to champion far more affordable housing, keep our NHS truly public and bring rail back into public ownership.
Reform is also key – many people don’t realise the stranglehold party officials have over their MPs. I’m lucky – as a Green, I have a free voice, but that shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the rule!

What do you really love about Brighton?
I love that we’re bordered by both sea and rolling South Downs. The vibrancy of the place and people – it’s so innovative and creative and we have such a strong community here of independent small and micro businesses. I’m so proud to serve in a city where time and again we see diversity, justice and equality not just tolerated – but actively celebrated.

What do you think of all the new developments happening in the city?
I think development can be very important and exciting - and it’s also important to protect our heritage and culture and all that’s precious about our city, including the natural beauty of its surroundings. I think local input is crucial as part of any process. This is our city; its people need a voice in how their communities develop.

Any predictions for the election?
The only thing we really know is that smaller, progressive parties like the Greens will have a greater influence than ever before. I wouldn’t ever prop up a Tory Government. But the idea of working together to support a minority Labour Government on a case by case basis is an interesting one. Labour has spent five years in official opposition now – but has opposed far too little. It’s crucial we have a strong, independent Green voice in Parliament to stand up for Brighton and press Labour to be the bolder and more progressive party many want and need it to be.