UK Politics

Caroline Lucas urges Greens 'have confidence'

Media captionGreen Party leader, Caroline Lucas, said membership was at an all-time high

Greens leader Caroline Lucas has attacked the biggest UK parties and urged members to "have confidence" in the party's future.

At the party's spring conference in Liverpool, she said the Greens offered something "fresh" - while the "fire has gone" for the main political parties.

She denounced coalition cuts as a "deliberate attack" on communities and accused Labour of betraying its values.

Mrs Lucas said only her party was an "opposition worthy of the name".

In a wide-ranging speech to party activists, Mrs Lucas - who became Westminster's first Green MP in 2010 - attacked government policies on welfare cuts, wider spending cuts and what she called their "slavish devotion" to using private companies to run public services.

'Immoral'

She also called for private firms providing public services to be subject to Freedom of Information requests, and for a new tax on the "big six" energy providers to help cut fuel poverty.

She attacked the Conservatives as "the same old nasty party", criticising the policy to cap household benefits at the level of average earnings, which she said would push more children into poverty.

Mrs Lucas told activists: "We know that it is immoral to make the poorest pay for a crisis not of their making."

And she accused the Lib Dems of having been "torn" from the party's roots to become "apologists and cheerleaders" for the Conservatives' plans.

The Green leader also turned her fire on Labour - accusing it of betraying its values in its stance on public sector strikes over pensions, spending cuts and human rights.

"Instead of trying to outcompete the government in some kind of masochistic virility test to see who can threaten the greatest austerity, an opposition party worthy of the name would be making a far stronger case that austerity isn't working," she said.

She said only the Greens could challenge Labour in the contest for Liverpool's first directly elected mayor in May and said they should be "confident" in the London mayoral race as well - where they also hope to win more London Assembly seats.

"At the local and the national level, I think we can safely say that we are a party that is growing in confidence. And that confidence is going to be needed more than ever in the years to come," she said.

'Economic mess'

Later she told the BBC her feeling of confidence was buoyed by "more and more positive results" in local elections and the party's membership being "at an all-time high".

"I think there are a lot of signals to suggest that the future is looking positive for the Greens."

At last year's local elections in England, the party gained 23 seats and lost two. Its biggest win in Brighton and Hove - the area Mrs Lucas represents in Parliament - where it gained 10 seats but remained five short of a majority on the council.

A spokesman for the Conservatives said the Greens wanted a "something-for-nothing culture".

"If they want to be a serious party they need to set out credible plans to deal with the economic mess left by Labour rather than offering more spending, more borrowing and more debt."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites