It feels like our politics is broken. Whether it be our electoral system which means that most votes that are cast have little or no value, or the power of the lobbyists who leave little room for democracy and call the tune to such an extent that the main parties look almost identical, or the politicians themselves immersed in scandal and seemingly more interested in the potential for next career directorships than representing their constituents, things need to change.
Caroline Lucas has always appeared to be something different, a politician with integrity who has entered parliament to fight for what is right and fuelled by a passion for the common good rather than vested interests. In Honourable Friends she tells us a bit about what she found in the Palace of Westminster, the role she has played there since her election in 2010 and how she would like to see it changed to better meet the needs of the people.
It isn’t a political diary in the tradition of Tony Benn and others but it does give a clear insight into the workings of our parliament and also of Lucas’s – and by extension the Green Party’s – vision for the future. Crucial to both are making parliament more accessible and more accountable and putting people and the planet ahead of corporations, profit and growth. She makes a strong case that we face serious, generation defining challenges and that we cannot meet them with more of the same, but she also does it with a hope that is lacking elsewhere.
Whilst she highlights areas of frustration, such as the out dated mechanisms of the political system and the iron fist enforcement of party whips who seem to want their own MP’s to be uninformed sheep to be herded, she also presents examples of cross party collaboration facilitated by her lone Green status, some of which are very surprising. It is also refreshing to see a Member of Parliament prepared to join a people’s protest and refuse to let go of her values, even in the face of arrest.
Lucas is articulate and presents her arguments well whilst remaining human and in touch with the reality of “normal” life. In many ways it is a shame that she is no longer the leader of her party as she is both compelling and accessible at a time when the Green Party need to connect with a wider audience than normal and build on the recent surge in interest they have attracted. As the media focus on them grows they will need figureheads who walk the line of being media savvy and genuinely sincere.
We stand at a crucial moment. Not only are the effects of Climate Change becoming more apparent and extreme but our political system is also at a tipping point for potential change. Just at the moment that we need a progressive alliance to lead the country into a new age of prosperity built on equality rather than growth we also have the opportunity to deliver it. For all the failings of the current coalition it has opened our eyes to the possibilities of minority government.
Any hope for a progressive alliance requires the Labour Party at its heart, but recent history shows that it is a party that has become removed from its core values and needs others to pull it back on course. It is in this space that the Green Party, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats (perhaps minus the leadership of Nick Clegg) can push for a focus on the common good within the natural limits of the planet we inhabit. Hopefully come 8 May Caroline Lucas will have some Honourable Friends alongside her in Westminster.