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Inspired by the German Green icon Petra Kelly’s belief that ‘we can no longer rely on the established parties, nor can we go tête-à-tête working solely through extra-parliamentary channels’, Caroline Lucas became the first Green MP elected to Britain’s parliament when she won Brighton Pavilion in 2010. Her first book tells the story of her becoming accustomed to, and frustrated by, the archaic and conservative rules that govern the Palace of Westminster – and trying to force the levers of power to produce positive social change.
Unusually for a non-fiction work about politics it’s an absolute joy to read – accessible, fast-paced and entertaining. And often funny too, especially her amused account of the then environment secretary Owen Paterson’s surreal argument regarding badger culls that ‘the badgers have moved the goalposts’ and her infiltration of a DSEi arms fair.
Whether she intends to or not, she puts a lot of Green water between her party and Labour on a whole range of issues, from austerity economics and rail nationalisation to airport expansion and drug reform. Her fascinating insider account of the parliamentary politics surrounding the August 2013 vote that defeated the government’s push for war in Syria shows the Labour opposition was opportunistic, rather than principled.
With the Greens pushing a strong social and economic justice agenda in their general election campaign, the book has a welcome focus on climate change – including a reminder of the recent frightening poll that found 71 per cent of Tory MPs think global warming is either unproven or ‘environmental propaganda’.
So what can one person from a minority party achieve among 650 MPs? For many, Lucas, voted ethical politician of the year three times, is the opposition in parliament, linking up with campaigners outside parliament on issues as diverse as the government’s attempted sell off of England’s public forests, the Sun’s page three photos and the push for fracking.
With Labour targeting Brighton Pavilion in May, the Greens have a fight on their hands to hold the seat. Cogent, rationale and humane, Honourable Friends? confirms why it is essential all progressives work to make sure Lucas continues as an MP.