SHAFAQNA – Caroline Patricia Lucas (born 9 December 1960) is a Green Party of England and Wales politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brighton Pavilion since 2010, when she became the first Green MP elected by an English constituency.
She was previously a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South East England from 1999 to 2010. and Leader of the Green Party from 2008 to 2012, when she stood down to devote more time to her parliamentary duties. She is noted for campaigning and writing on green economics, localisation, alternatives to globalisation, trade justice, animal welfare and food. In her time as a politician and activist, she has worked with numerous NGOs and think-tanks, including the RSPCA, CND and Oxfam.
A straw poll by The Muslim News recently showed the Green Party are picking up Muslim voters. Shafaqna decided to interview the Green Party’s ex-leader and the only MP, Caroline Lucas, to discuss why Muslims are attracted to the Green Party, what the Green party stands for and what a vote for the Green Party actually means.
It wasn’t difficult to see what the Green MP stood for. When asked why she thinks the Green Party appeals to Muslims, MP Lucas says passionately, “We are uncompromising in our commitment to social justice, human rights and opposing the failed austerity of the Tories. I think many will be worried seeing the Labour Party compromise on its language around immigration, and adopting some of the Tories’ austerity economics.”
Lucas mentions ‘social justice’ frequently. Perhaps she’s seen in our poll that the issue of social justice is important to Muslims. What did it mean to Lucas?
“On a day-to-day basis it is about opposing this Government’s austerity program that is deliberately hitting some of the poorest and most vulnerable people hardest. I’m thinking about policies such as the bedroom tax, the welfare cap and the housing benefit. I know that this doesn’t necessary impact Muslims, but I think they like the idea of a party standing up for justice, I think this appeals to Muslims.”
This sounds positive, but not even Lucas’ own seat is safe so what would happen if the Green return no MPs to Parliament? “I think what’s behind your question is that the voting system is not friendly to small parties. I think if we have fair proportional representation we would see a lot more Green MPs.” Wouldn’t this mean that we would have more far right MPs than Greens? I think what’s interesting is that when you put the far right under the spotlight, for example when Nick Griffin of the BNP was invited to BBC Question Time it was wonderful. Griffin was completely unable to defend his policies and after he disappeared without a trace. Perfect.
But the Green Party has landed in some hot water for not being able to fully add up their policies. Many have accused the Green Party of having their hearts in the right place, but with counterproductive policies. When Shafaqna put this to Lucas she was undeterred. “For me, we need to ask ourselves what kind of society do we want? What are our priorities? What is our vision? And then we turn to the accountants to see where we can get the money from. I mean we found the money for HS2, Trident nuclear weapons and illegal wars, so the money is there. If you’re asking me if we have teams of lawyers and accountants that others parties have, of course we don’t. For me it’s about having a vision, a direction of travel. Politics shouldn’t just be about accountants.”
Throughout the conversation Lucas constantly points how much she’s engaged with Muslims. “I’ve won the MP of the year for the Patchwork Foundation [a non-profit encouraging engagement with minorities], I’ve been outreaching to Mosques, Muslim women groups in my constituency and I’ve been trying to proactively getting the Green party to where Muslims are, and not the other way round.”
Shafaqna pushed her on Muslim-related campaigns in Parliament, “I’ve been at the forefront of the campaign to recognise Islamophobia as a hate crime just as anti-Semitism is, I’ve been championing the cases of Babar Ahmed, Shaker Aamer and others, I got a debate on reflections on 10 years after the Iraq war and many other campaigns.”
What puts many off voting Green is that they are not going to win. Voting for the Greens is at best a wasted vote and at worse it will allow the Tories, the Green voters’ most disliked party, into power. Would Lucas encourage tactical voting? “No, why would I tell people to vote for the party they hate second?” (Not the party they like second). So what would a vote for the Green actually get? “Your voting for a certain set of issues to be higher up on the political agenda. You’re not old enough to remember this but back in 1989 the Greens won 15% of the European elections. After that the environment catapulted to the top of the political agenda. Now we are saying that if people want the ambition set of policies they should vote for us.”