In an exclusive interview for Whippersnapper, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion made the case for votes at 16, a more compassionate economic policy, and a re-evaluation of Britain’s monarchy and armed forces.
By Rebecca Linford
A summary of the questions and responses is provided below:
Q: With 764,000 16-24 year olds without jobs today in the UK, youth unemployment is one of the greatest issues young people face, what do you intend to do about it?
A: The Greens would give the vote to 16 year olds, reinstate the EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance), make it mandatory for large businesses to offer more apprenticeships, scrap tuition fees and improve austerity.
Q: How would you personally reduce political apathy among the young?
A: Again give 16 year olds the vote, change the voting system to get rid of safe seats and make Parliament more diverse
Q: Why, with a 12% drop in Green votes and 57% disapproval rating according to a ComRes poll, do you think the Green council in Brighton is so unpopular?
A: It hasn’t publicised their successes enough. For example, the chief executive of the city council took a pay cut to give people on the lowest salaries in the council a pay rise; Brighton has the highest number of private sector companies signed up to living wage outside of London; Numbers of tourists for overnight stays is at a record level and the number of business start ups is one of the highest in Britain.
Q: Recycling in Brighton has slipped to a new low under the Greens, with only 25.8% of waste reused. This means the Green city council comes 302nd out 326. Is it possible that the Greens aren’t so green after all?
A: Recycling is higher now than it was under the previous Labour administration. The bin strike definitely hurt the figures and since Christmas there has been a 10% increase. Also the figures are unfair as it compares rural garden waste with the urban dry waste that Brighton has more of.
Q: Why do you want to harm small and medium businesses by restricting Britain’s economic growth?
A: Don’t want to harm small businesses at all, and she is in fact fighting for a reduction in VAT on tourism. But we cannot sustain growth in every single sector, so only the most important should have growth and it should be restricted in others to balance it out.
Q: You’ve said you want to tax “superstar” performances, so what do you have against Beyoncé and other performers like her?
A: We want to put more resources into our arts and music, so just taxing a small percentage of the large amounts of money these performances generate would make a big difference.
Q: One of your proposals is to give every adult, whether working or not, a Citizen’s Income of a greater value than the current Jobseeker’s Allowance. Why is there any need for the government to hand out all this money? And, in all seriousness, how do you intend to fund it?
A: It is a long term commitment, not something to be implemented any time soon. The means tested benefits are extremely costly administratively and can never catch up with what people actually need. The Greens would pay for it by introducing a wealth tax which would bring in around £34 billion.
Q: Why do you think the Queen has done such a bad job, to the extent that she needs to be put into a “Council house” as your boss Natalie Bennett said.
A: The Greens believe that the royal family should have no constitutional role and should instead only have a ceremonial one like the system in some Nordic countries.
Q: You aim to get rid of nuclear weapons, so what would you intend to do in the event of Britain being threatened by a nuclear-armed power? For example, Russia’s rise as a credible threat to NATO and the West?
A: Impose sanctions to get Putin to the table then peaceful negotiations from then on.
Q: Due to the current situation with Russia and the rise of terrorism in the Middle East, do you really think it’s wise to get rid of our armed forces and replace them with a peacekeeping force?
A: The Greens don’t want to get rid of the armed forces, they just want to see them more involved in peace keeping. We should be taking a closer look at how we and our armed forces act in the world.
Q: What is your opinion on our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A: The Greens believe it was an unmitigated disaster which we are still paying the price for.
Q: Surely we need to ease our reliance on Russian gas, and we have seen in the states how fracking has led to a fall in oil prices and thus cheaper utilities for consumers. Why are you so opposed to it then?
A: There is actually no evidence that fracking would lead to cheaper utilities because of how we would have to sell it on the European market. It did in the States because the geology is different and so the gas could be used in the States. It also would damage our environment even more and introduce another fossil fuel industry when we should be trying to wean ourselves off it.
Q: One aim of the Green party is to decriminalise the possession of drugs. Have you at any point in your life ever taken any illegal substances?
A: Yes. But decriminalising drugs is about harm reduction. By making it legitimate you would actually make it harder to obtain drugs, as it would be like buying alcohol and there would be age limitations and restrictions. Plus by making it legal we could be sure of what was in it and prevent deaths from unknown substances.
Q: Favourite prime minister?
A: Those who were in charge at the end of World War 2.
A: Because that was when the NHS was set up.
Q: What is your stance on the badger cull?
Q: Pharmaceutical testing on animals? Even though it helps to save lives?
A: Definitely against cosmetic testing, and we should be trying to move away from it as it is not as effective as most people think.
Q: What did you do before politics?
A: Worked in Oxfam.
Q: Where do you stand on the EU?
A: In favour but wanting heavier reform.
Q: Are you a feminist?
Q: Opinion on Nigel Farage?
A: Dangerous man.
Q: Why did you step down as leader of the Greens?
A: Wanted to demonstrate the large amounts of talents in the Green party and to increase the amount of effort she could focus onto Brighton.
Q: Do you support HS2?
Q: Do you believe the voting age should be lowered to 16?
Q: Why do you think politicians find it so hard to answer direct questions?
A: Because politicians are scared and people might respect them more if they had more belief in what they were saying rather than just sticking to the party line.