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Elections are drawing to a close in the United Kingdom. Once again, we’re ruled with a conservative government – this time, without the Liberal Democrats to “add the heart” to the Tories as their campaign aimed to do.
But, here in Brighton, we are green surrounded by blue. The entirety of the south of England has voted for conservative representatives, apart from little progressive Brighton that faces the blue sea below and a sea of blue seats above. Increasing her share of the vote by 11% and gaining a 42%, the citizens of Brighton have give a resounding vote of approval to green politics and the only green MP in Britain, former party leader Caroline Lucas.
But what does green politics mean in Brighton? As the many electoral leaflets stuffed through my door have told me, there is a lot on Caroline Lucas’ plate.
Whilst her election campaign focused on social policies – care, respect and bravery to represent the least well off in society – and this certainly won support, the Green party are the only environmentally led party in Westminster. It is set to be a difficult five years for environmental activists, despite more than a million voters choosing Green at the ballot box.
Lucas is ardently anti fracking, something the conservatives are seeking to increase in Sussex, the county surrounding Brighton. Sussex is conservative heartland, and fracking is set to be one of the most contentious issues the greens will fight the government on. Seeing fracking as both damaging to the environment and the rhetoric that allows the rise of green and sustainable energy, few in Britain believe its good for the environment, yet it is set to go ahead. The greens are set on increasing the usage of sustainable energy production, but it seems unless there is a way to link this towards an economic benefit or reducing foreign oil dependence the British public simply aren’t interested outside of Brighton.
What the polls tell us is that the British population does support two green policies: Facing up to the big 6 Energy companies and increasing the amount of energy efficient homes. In Brighton this takes the form of Caroline Lucas promoting the Brighton Energy Coop’s aim to power 600 homes with solar panels, championing Friends of the Earth’s “Run on sun” campaign for schools to make it easy for schools to install solar panels and the 10:10 solar schools initiative, endorsing community ownership and local control of the grid and backing community owned energy projects such as the Brighton Energy Co-operative solar PV scheme.
Lucas is allowing space in Brighton for initiatives to operate independently, and then support them when it is economically, environmentally and politically viable for the greens. This smart strategy means a voter base of supporters for initiatives already exists, as does the resources that can help make our city as green as it can be.
With the next five years of a conservative led government, there is little prospect of a transition to sustainability nationally. But, with the lone green representative in our city, we can make a start at the bottom of the nation – and hope it works its way to the top of the nation and government.