Shrunken economic debate needs a big green boost, says Lucas

By staff writers
April 30, 2010

The leader of the Green Party in England and Wales has said last night’s final leaders’ debate failed to look at genuine economic alternatives to generate jobs, make tax fair and generate a more equal society.

Major investment in jobs around energy and efficiency in an environmental context was needed to address the deficit, tackle recession and restructure the economy, Caroline Lucas declared. But these huge challenges had been ignored by Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Ms Lucas, who is also a Green Euro MP and the trending parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion, which the Greens are widely tipped to win, was speaking to BBC correspondent Evan Harris on Radio 4’s Today programme.

The prime ministerial debates, which have excluded other parties, had been a disappointment, Lucas said. In effect they had moved from making the election “a two-party stitch up… to a three-party stitch up”, she declared.

Challenged on the Green alternative vision, she said that the so-called mainstream economic debate was ignoring the fact that “the planet does have some finite resources, and we cannot just go on growing in the way we are at the moment.”

Real choices had to be made, Lucas said. “We cannot go on measuring progress just in terms of GNP [Gross National Product], we need other measures of well-being.”

On the question of aviation, the Green leader said that the party’s policy was “no more growth of airports anywhere, replacing domestic flights with high-speed rail, and a massive investment in public transport” to encourage people to make the switch.

Why was it, she asked, that taking the train from London to Paris was so much more expensive than flying? The answer, Lucas said, was that the public, while being denied a proper choice, was in subsidising the airline industry to the tune of £10 billion a year, compared to other transport systems, because of the lack of a tax on aviation fuel.

Current growth rates in aviation were running at 60-70 per cent, said Ms Lucas. “We need to get real.”

Getting people back to work, developing a fair tax system, and generating a more equal society were Green priorities for a domestic economic programme rooted in environmental action and sustainability, Ms Lucas said, adding that “People don’t really know that there are other options out there” when they listen to the big three parties.

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