Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 18:04 UK

Greens coming of age, says Lucas

New leader says the Green Party's 'moment has come'

New Green leader Caroline Lucas has said the party was "coming of age" and expected to secure its first MPs.

Ms Lucas, unveiled as the party's first leader at its annual conference, has also said she plans to draw attention to the party's social justice policies.

In her speech to the London conference she called for a windfall tax on energy companies and a "Green new deal" of investment in energy efficiency.

Ms Lucas branded bosses of energy companies energy "robber barons".

She told the conference: "Just three companies - BP, Centrica and Shell - together made 1,000 profit every second over the first six months of this year.

"These corporations are robbing from the poor to give to the rich and they know it. And it's about time they learned that, in a progressive democracy, there is no place for robber barons."

It follows her criticism of Gordon Brown for failing to impose a windfall tax on the energy companies.

Green spin doctors (yes they really do exist) insist there is no question of the party abandoning its principles
Carole Walker
BBC political correspondent

The party leader also used her speech to call for a Green New Deal to deliver public investment in "green-collar" jobs in areas including renewable energy, which she said could create hundreds of thousands of jobs while helping the fight against global warming and cutting fuel bills.

And Ms Lucas gave her backing to a programme of free insulation to every home in the UK.

The party leader told the BBC she expected to see Green MPs at Westminster in the next two years.

She identified Brighton Pavilion, Lewisham and Norwich South as target seats.

Ms Lucas told the BBC success in local elections, combined with the change to the party hierarchy, meant the Green party were well positioned for success at the next general election.

"I'm confident this is all part of a real coming of age for the Green party and we will be seeing Green MPs at Westminster next time round," she said.

'Abstract ideas'

The MEP for South East England - the party's candidate for Brighton Pavilion - beat the only other candidate, Ashley Gunstock, by 2,559 votes to 210 in the leadership vote.

Earlier, Ms Lucas, 47, told the BBC: "We need to redouble our efforts to get our message across even more urgently. We think that by having a leader we can do that even better."

She added the decision to switch from the party's previous system of having two principal speakers followed "the realisation that people don't respond to abstract ideas".

"They respond much more to the people and policies that represent those ideas. We have a face to put to the policies," said the new leader.

Ms Lucas added: "There is a huge number of people out there who want to hear our message and we need to get better at getting it across.

"I want to get our message out about social justice. Everybody knows we're the party of the environment. What fewer people know is that if you are looking for the real progressive force in British politics today it is the Green party."

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05 Sep 08 |  Business

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