UK Politics

Challenges lie ahead for Greens as they celebrate win

Image caption Caroline Lucas told her party to savour her victory at the polls

Caroline Lucas is a party leader who dislikes the idea of party leaders.

So she stood before the Green Party conference and played down her own role in a general election campaign that saw her win a seat.

"It's not the one at the front that matters," she insisted, and the audience murmured approval.

That is, after all, exactly the sort of thing Green Party members - who until recently had no single leader - like to hear.

Ms Lucas won two standing ovations for her pains.

If there was a celebratory tone to the party's conference in Birmingham, it surprised no one.

Victory in the four-way marginal of Brighton Pavilion had given the Greens the status and public standing coveted by all smaller parties.

Mixed results

It also masked some rather less encouraging results from general election 2010. The BNP polled almost twice as many votes as the Greens, and UKIP won almost four times as many.

In Norwich South, a strong area for the party, it was a Liberal Democrat candidate who toppled the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke. The Greens came fourth.

Now they are trying to position themselves to the left of both the coalition partners, and Labour.

Ms Lucas highlighted her opposition to spending cuts, academy schools and the renewal of Trident.

She accepted some will "pour scorn" on her ideas, principally the suggestion candidates for parliament could stand in pairs then operate a job share scheme - with two individuals occupying one seat.

It is certainly hard to imagine that winning much support from the parliamentary authorities, which suits the Greens.

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Media captionCaroline Lucas on job shares: This as an "idea whose time will come"

They want to be members of parliament, but to maintain a reputation as outsiders in an institution Ms Lucas describes as "strange and alien".

But while she can keep a critical distance, the Green Party leader must decide how to vote in the Commons, forcing her to take a position on its business. That will throw up quandaries.

There is a fierce internal debate on, for example, high-speed rail lines.

Greens have supported those in the past. Now a conference motion suggests they are "not compatible with creating a fair and just society".

Those details will be little followed by outsiders, but Green electoral fortunes will be closely monitored.

Most recently they won an extra council seat in Norwich, disappointing some members who had hoped to see the Greens become the largest party there.

A first seat in Parliament has left activists with the mixed blessing of high expectations, but recent results suggest they are not on a straightforward upward path.

Caroline Lucas may duck the credit for her own victory but should the party falter now, there will be plenty of people ready to blame her for its failure.

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