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Live webchat with MEP/Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Mon 1 June, 12.30pm-1.30pm

(106 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-May-09 14:08:56

We're pleased to flag up that Caroline Lucas is coming on to MN for a chat.

Caroline has two children, is the only woman leader of a UK political party and has been an MEP for the South East region for a decade (and is hoping to be re-elected on 4 June).

Please join us - the list of potential topics to discuss is huge (climate change, the economy, the expenses row, 'toxic' toys, the Green 'New Deal', animal rights...).

As usual, if you're not sure you can make the chat but have a burning question for Caroline, please post here and we'll pass them on.

champagnesupernova Mon 01-Jun-09 10:03:26

Hi Caroline
I try to be environmentally aware but there are times when it's just too HARD once you have DCs.

I have been known to chuck the occasional recyclable in the bin for example blush and I am not very good at doing the washing at a low temperature.

Do you manage to live the green dream all the time? I would imagine with such a busy schedule that you must be guilty of the occasional slip up.

Legacy Mon 01-Jun-09 10:29:45

Hi Caroline
I too saw you on QT last week and thought you were FAB!

I've had an interest in Economics/Politics for a long time (incl. a degree in the same) and when I was a teenager/ at Uni I always wanted to become an MP (didn't know about MEPs then!) and decided it was something I'd pursue in my 40s, after an initial career and family. Scarily that time is NOW (eek!) but I am so depressed by everything that seems to be going on in Parliament(s) these days, I am constantly questioning why ANYONE would want to be an MP/MEP...

So my question is more focused on personal/family issues....

- What support do you have in place to allow you to fulfil your role?
-What is it that 'keeps you going' in the darkest hours... what are the highlights and lowlights of trying to do all the things you seem to do?
- Do you have a highly supportive family, or does your demanding role sometimes create tensions?

It still seems to me that the UK parliament is a hideous place for women with families to work within. Is Brussels any better/ different?
At the end of the day, WHY do you do it - what do you get out of it? (And I don't mean financially/ expense-wise!! grin)

gizmo Mon 01-Jun-09 11:18:47

Hello Caroline,

A number of questions here:

1) How does the Green Party go about conveying to the ordinary punter that you have a complete manifesto, as well as your strengths in environmental matters? I was in a Green Party meeting a few weeks back, for example, and nobody was discussing schools or healthcare, surely that's a minimum for engaging people?

2) At the same meeting we had a bloke from Hackney making the good point that the Green Party is seen as a middle class irrelevance in the estate he lived on. Do you think that's true? How do you change that?

3) Very specific one here: what is the Green Party's position on Smart Metering and the Smart Grid? Does the party have any plans to stimulate the market for home energy products (microgeneration, demand response systems, home energy control and displays)?

Peachy Mon 01-Jun-09 12:16:14

Hello caroline

I am wondering how the Green Party proposes to attract membership from those in professions that feel threatened by the environmentalists? I am specifically minded of my DH's ex-profession, haulage, where a great many people felt their jobs were being personally targeted by the environmental movement. It's one of the industries massively suffeirng in the current climate and already making many redundancies (my Dh was one but fortunately has found other paths to follow).

In a time where people fear for there very livelihoods, do you feel the Green Party might become a victim of dsperate sekking of job security?

Peachy Mon 01-Jun-09 12:21:22

Oh and I totally agree with the point about a wider manifesto.

Whilst I am interested in green matters, I stil could never commit to pa party where the effects of that election on those things that affect every day- for me, education, welfare / tax credits, disability, carers- might be unknown

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 01-Jun-09 12:22:07

Hi Caroline,
Are you concerned that according to the Polls it's UKIP and the BNP who seem to be benefiting from the fall out of the MPs expenses saga. Why do you think the Greens have not benefited more from the disillusionment with the established parties? Is there anything more you think the Green party could be doing?

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:25:09

test

Mask Mon 01-Jun-09 12:27:18

Hi Caroline,

I'm interested in comments made by the Green Party along the lines of how the changes we need to make in order to live within our means, ecologically, are changes which will enhance our quality of life rather than diminish it.

In what way?

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 01-Jun-09 12:27:24

What will we do when the oil runs out, actually?

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 01-Jun-09 12:27:50

Good afternoon everyone and welcome Caroline and thanks for joining us.
We're sure you've all got lots of questions, so over to you Caroline...

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:28:27

Hi Hanaflower The politics behind having the Parliament sit in Strasbourg is madness! But essentially the decision is not one which the Parliament itself has influence over – it’s down to the Member State governments. The only way it can be changed is if all 27 member states unanimously agree – and France continues to block any change, because they enjoy the economic advantage of MEPs continuing to travel to Strasbourg every month. But I can honestly say I loathe having to do so – it’s an enormous waste of money and time.

Greens have definitely taken a lead in terms of trying to make the European
Parliament allowances system less open to abuse. And, to be fair, UK MEPs as
a whole, with some notable exceptions, are generally more progressive on
this than MEPs from other countries. There are some individuals across
political divides who are genuinely committed to transparency and
accountability, but in terms of parties, or groups as they tend to be known
in the European Parliament, I am not sure that anyone has the same kind of
track-record on pushing for reform as Greens do. The Parliament tends to be
less combattative than, say, Westminster, so it is common for MEPs from
different groups to work together on issues and we are certainly open to
cooperation if it can deliver a fairer system.

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:31:46

hi Gamut The Green Party is rooted in local communities, and has a very decentralised structure – I think that helps us keep our integrity, and our links to local campaigns. We’re committed to a different way of doing politics, through empowering others to take action. We don’t believe that politics is all about men (usually) in grey suits (almost always) shouting at each other at Westminster – politics is just about every decision you make, from the moment you get up in the morning, to the moment you go to bed at night!

I think we avoid being compromised ourselves by keeping very democratic and accountable structures within the Party (eg as Leader, I have to stand for re-election every 2 years, and there are a number of ways that members can recall me if they don’t agree with what I’m doing). I also think that, on balance, it’s better for Green Parties to wait until they have more power before they enter coalition governments (eg in Germany) – otherwise, they don’t have sufficient power to stand up to their senior coalition partners, and are likely to be held responsible for decisions which they don’t agree with.

LeninGrad Mon 01-Jun-09 12:35:15

Yes, all that braying in parliament is embarrassing, they need to cut it out.

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:36:05

hi Queenie - This covers so much but I will try and be brief! Green parenting often
seems to be portrayed simply in terms of consumerism, whereas for me it is
about so much more. So, for example, I think Green parenting is about giving
parents flexibility and support - be it to carry on paid work, reduce hours,
find a job or stop working all together. So, the Green Party want each and
every citizen to receive a non-means tested Citizens Income which would
replace most existing social security benefits. This is intended to give
every member of society the opportunity to do things that have enormous
social value, like parenting, or caring for eldely relatives, or doing
voluntary work and so on, without worrying about whether they can afford to.

The Green Party does want to ensure that products like nappies, for example,
meet strict environmental standards, but we also want to focus on there being
good quality libraries, playgrounds and swimming pools in each and every
community. We agree it is important that you should be able to get organic
baby food and have a range of policies designed to push companies to act
more responsibly. But we also want education facilities to be based on
meeting children's needs, and for you and your child to regularly see the
same GP so there is continuity of care, for example. So, I think from a
Green Party perspective, what we want to do is encourage Green Parenting in
the sense that it is about parents making positive choices and contributing
to a greener, fairer, happier future for their children.

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:39:18

hi Jux

Greens Members of the European Parliament have been at the forefront of efforts to clean up the Brussels expenses system. For example, we proposed years ago that receipts should be provided for at least 50% of office expenditure, but the majority in the two largest political groups, the Conservatives and Labour, blocked the move. We are also part of a wider cross-party Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, which aims to promote much greater transparency, and – crucially – to end the ridiculous situation whereby MEPs have to travel to Strasbourg for one week every month.

Some good news is that some changes are starting to happen. From July onwards, for example, all travel allowances will be reimbursed on the basis of the actual cost of the journey, not on a lump sum basis – something which Greens, again, have been calling for for many years.

More broadly, we also want to see powers taken away from the unelected Commission, and the elected Parliament given more influence, and to open up the whole of the EU processes to much greater transparency and accountability. I genuinely think people would be shocked if they truly understood the power that the corporate lobby wields over the decision making process and on matters which affect us all every day.

Spidermama Mon 01-Jun-09 12:39:29

I read something about you helping to get the European Parliament to ban toxic toys. It was alarming!

What were the toxins and what exactly happened? Were they banned?

LeninGrad Mon 01-Jun-09 12:43:09

Do you support voting electronically? Should citizens be made to vote?

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:44:29

LupusinaLlamasuit - we'll try to act before it finally does! We need to be weaning ourselves off fossil fuels NOW - and groups like the Transition Town movement are doing fantastic work in local communities all over the UK, raising awareness about this, and taking practical action. Oil has become so essential to our modern way of life - eg in terms of food production (fertilisers, pesticides, packaging, transportation etc) - so promoting things like local food can make a real difference. Governments also need to take urgent action, in terms of a massive investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy - which would create up to a million jobs in the UK as well.

policywonk Mon 01-Jun-09 12:44:43

OOh I like the sound of the citizen's income - I've long been of the opinion that parents who stay at home to raise young children should get some sort of living wage (along with all other carers, of course). How would it be paid for?

Do the Greens, broadly speaking, argue for tax increases?

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:46:27

Fibonacci, The health of our children is obviously fundamentally important as is getting them into good eating habits at a young age.
Obviously healthy school meals, free for all, would be costly and we'd need to raise money through general taxation. Looking at the larger picture we're convinced that the benefits would save money on healthcare in the long run.

Legacy Mon 01-Jun-09 12:47:20

Can you tell us more about what it's like being a Party Leader/ MEP/ Mum ...? (see my earlier Q below...)

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:47:49

Hi Spidermama,

Spend time with my boys, play the piano (not very well!), relax with friends, watch episodes of west wing, gin and tonic in hand....

I confess that the huge mountain of resistance that we need to overcome in terms of climate change does keep me awake at night. But the many inspiring, committed people I meet across my constituency, for example, and through movements like Transition Towns and Climate Rush give me hope. We need as a society to move towards what many call a zero carbon economy - which is about every transaction we make being free from the damaging emissions that are causing climate change. The really exciting thing about such an economy is that is has the potential to offer incredible benefits that reflect what most of us aspire to - for example, more secure jobs, less time commuting, more time with our family, warmer homes, easy access to affordable local food, belonging to a community, a healthier environment and so on. I genuinely believe that on the whole the public are ready to embrace a zero carbon future and it just needs politicians to show some leadership and starting talking about what we would gain from pulling back from climate chaos.

As to whether this will happen any time soon, we have only a tiny window of opportunity, less than 100 months, before we risk going past the point of no return for dangerous global temperature increases . This autumn in Copenhagen a new international agreement on reducing emissions will be negotiated and may well be the last opportunity to take concerted global action. So, at the moment I am cautiously optimistic, but ask me again in a few months time and I may say something different!

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:48:11

Hi ahundredtimes. I'm sorry to hear you don't feel you've been given the information you need to understand what happens in Europe, how it affects you (because it really does in so many ways) and what your choices are in the coming election on June 4th. It's not for want of trying believe me!
Even though a great deal of legislation which affects all of us, every day comes directly from the European Parliament, it has always been a struggle to get the media to report the information – yet in countries like France and Germany there's so much more engagement. Our team's working flat out to leaflet, canvass and hold stalls.
The European Parliament doesn’t have what’s called “the power of initiative” – which simply means that, sadly, we can’t initiate new laws ourselves – but we can, and do, amend, revise and improve proposed legislation which is drawn up by the European Commission (unelected officers) – it’s pretty undemocratic, as you can see, and we’d very much like the Parliament to have the power to propose legislation itself.
Each party does indeed have a European Election manifesto – you can find them on their Party websites. Ours is at www.greenparty.org.uk

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:48:46

Hi hundredtimes,

Most regions of the UK have about 7-10 MEPs - I represent the South East
which is a vast area so the main ways I am in touch with constituents are
via email, letters, the website and the media. Holding surgeries is not
really practical in a constituency this size, but I do meet with people if
that is the best way to help them. I work really hard to try and tell people
what MEPs do, produce lots of leaflets and papers, but inevitably we cannot reach everyone. I know this is something MEPs need to get better at and sites like this are a great opportunity to reach new people - so thank you for having me! The media do
have a great deal to answer for, as there usually is very limited coverage
of the European Parliament - and the stories that do get reported are
usually completely misrepresented, like the EU apparently wanting to make
bananas straight (not true!!)

There are around 35 Green MEPs in the European Parliament, working on
everything from traditional environmental issues like controlling how much
pesticides can be sprayed on our food, to recommending minimum maternity
leave conditions across all the members of the EU. Our main job is to
scrutinise proposed new laws or revisions of existing laws, which will then
apply to every single country that belongs to the EU. These laws are drawn
up by the European Commission and MEPs can also try and influence what
topics are covered. So, for example, recently I got support from a majority
of MEPs for the European Commission to investigate the way that supermarket
monopolies across the EU are impacting on consumers, workers, growers,
independent shops and so on. The ultimate goal is that some kind of
legislation will be introduced that will restrict the power of the largest
supermarkets.All the laws that are developed at EU level must also be agreed
by the Council of Europe, which is made up of all the heads of all the members states - so, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Sarkozy and so forth.

When the EU was set up everyone who joined agreed which laws would be
developed at EU level and which would be left to national governments. So,
the EU determines trade policies, but it also decides on workers rights and
health and safety at work, for example. It sets waste recycling targets and
decides what information about food should be provided to consumers. The EU
is also active in areas that the Green Party does not think it should have a
role in - such as privatising public services, including the post office and
the railways, acting collectively in a military sense and having a common
policy for farming.

CarolineLucas Mon 01-Jun-09 12:49:24

Uberalice - thank you. I did enjoy that edition of Any Questions! As for
whether we're any closer to proportional representation at Westminster, the
expenses scandal has laid bare the rotten system for all to see and as the
anger subsides there seems to be a real appetite for positive change. How
and what form that will take, none of us yet knows as the story is still
unfolding. But as Rahm Emanuel, one of President Obama's chiefs of staff
said some months back, it would be a shame to waste a crisis!

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