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Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Sunday, 11 April 2010 11:16 UK

'A vote for the Greens should not just be a protest vote'

On Sunday 11 April Andrew Marr interviewed Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

ANDREW MARR:

Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party
Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party

Now then, the Green Party is fielding its largest ever number of candidates in the General Election; expect to have at least 300 of them. The Party Leader, Caroline Lucas, hopes that the Greens are going to gain from voter disaffection with the mainstream parties after the expenses scandal, and she's with me now. Good morning, Caroline Lucas.

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Now we know quite a lot about your party's environmental positions and so on, but you are standing on a manifesto that's going to have to cover the waterfront; and one thing that you haven't talked about much as a party is what's going to have to happen because of the depth of the financial problems that the country's in. If you and some other Greens make it into parliament, you could be there holding the balance of power. Who knows? So would you be voting for cuts in public spending and some of the unpopular things that you haven't much talked about as a party?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Well we have talked about them, with respect, quite a lot, and it's very clear that we don't think we should be cutting public spending. That …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Not at all?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

… if you look at the size of the deficit … Well not right now, certainly. I think the danger of cutting public spending now is that we will go back into a double dip recession, if you like, so what we want to see is actually government investment in jobs. Our worry is that unemployment is getting left behind in all of this complete obsession if you like with the deficit. And basically the black hole that we undoubtedly face is caused not just because we need to cut public spending, but the other option of course is to raise taxes. Now that is the heretical issue that none of the other parties are prepared to look in the face, but we think this is a real opportunity for genuine, progressive tax reform, and that's what we're very upfront about saying in our manifesto.

ANDREW MARR:

And what would you like to see happen to the tax system?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Well we are starting from the premise that it's deeply unfair that, for example, those on lowest incomes pay a greater proportion of those incomes on tax than those on higher incomes. So, for example, we would bring in the 50p tax rate not on incomes over £150,000, as Labour would, but on incomes over £100,000. We would take off the limit on national insurance contributions at the upper end. And then we would also look at people on lower incomes, re-instate the 10p tax band and so forth, and basically get away from a situation where the UK is now one of the most unequal societies in the whole of Europe. That we think is a scandal, not least after 13 years of a Labour government.

ANDREW MARR:

But that's not enough, is it, to actually start to plug the deficit, particularly since you've got relatively expensive plans of your own - for instance free dental care, which is not going to come cheap?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

No, on Thursday we're going to be launching our manifesto. And it is a fully costed manifesto that independent economists have looked at as well, so the books will balance. We recognise of course that we're going to have to borrow - we're looking at borrowing along the same lines as the government at the moment - but we believe that if we reformed the tax system, there are ways of being able to pay for basically making this country a fairer society, and we think that's resonating very strongly on the doorsteps.

ANDREW MARR:

You started as a party very much seen by a lot of people as a single issue party on the environment. Have you evolved? Are you changing into a party that's basically a Left-ish party, a bit to the left of the Labour Party, because when it comes to tax, when it comes to welfare, when it comes to public services and immigration and lots of issues, that's what you sound like?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

I don't think that's anything new, to be quite honest. The fact that the media have caught up with it is wonderful, but it's always been there in our manifesto right from the early 70s. So, yes, we are a party about progressive taxation, about redistribution, standing up for inequality, wanting a fairer society, and actually having the guts to put those policies in our manifesto. Because, to be honest, the other three parties are sounding increasingly identical really. There are small you know cigarette papers of difference between them, but essentially they're all talking about cutting public services. The debate is when. We want to have a much more mature debate about taxation. We want to talk about a High Pay Commission; not just a Low Pay Commission. We want to look at raising the minimum wage. We want to look at ways of making this society less scarred by inequality than it is today.

ANDREW MARR:

I suppose … I don't know if it's a danger or an opportunity for you, but you could become a sort of protest vote for angry people from the Labour Party family originally - angry people on the Left. You yourself have talked about a credibility problem for the Green Party. How do you jump that credibility hurdle?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

The credibility problem that I've talked about is the fact that we don't yet have people at Westminster, and that is always going to be the barrier - until you get the first person in. Then that makes people believe it's possible, and more Greens then swiftly follow. That's the experience we've had on local authorities, London Assembly, European Parliament. Once you get the first ones elected, then more follow. But in terms of people just voting for us because it's a protest, I would contest that a bit. I think that people are increasingly savvy. They know what the Green Party's about. And it's really interesting. If I could just commend to you a rather wonderful website at the moment called Vote for Policies. It enables people to vote blind, if you like. They look at a set of health policies, education, economics, jobs, and they tick which ones they like best. And the point is they don't know which party that adds up to. The Greens are far and away in the lead - 28% after 70,000 people have voted. People like our policies. What they need to know is that by voting Green, you can get Green politicians elected, and at this election there is that real possibility of getting those first MPs elected.

ANDREW MARR:

Can you possibly persuade people that you are economically credible without talking properly about some kind of cuts in public spending?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Well we're not the only ones who are basically challenging this consensus from the other parties about cuts in public spending.

ANDREW MARR:

Who else is?

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Well David Blanchflower, for example, who was the one economist on that monetary committee who actually saw the recession coming. Plenty of other economists out there are talking about this.

ANDREW MARR:

Everybody can find an economist. (laughs)

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Well I've got some with some very good reputations. I mean there are going to need to be cuts, I don't deny that, but the things we want to cut are things like Trident. Why on earth are we going to be spending 78 billion over the next 30 years on a defence instrument that isn't even going to be relevant, effective or do anything much for our security? ID cards, the road building programme. I've got plenty of things on my list.

ANDREW MARR:

Well we'll …

CAROLINE LUCAS:

But the idea that cutting public services right now is a good idea, I think is fantasy, and we're very proud to be able to say that.

ANDREW MARR:

Well lots of people will be watching that manifesto next week. Caroline Lucas, for now thank you very much indeed.

CAROLINE LUCAS:

Thank you very much.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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