Caroline Lucas suggested that some of the Greens’ biggest ideas, including plans for £72 a week citizen’s income for all, were merely ambitions and that the party’s focus was on getting Labour to adopt better environmental policies.
The Green party, which has overtaken the Liberal Democrats in polls and more than doubled its members, has recently been under pressure over the detail of its policy proposals.
Natalie Bennett, the Green leader, in January heralded the idea of a citizen’s income but acknowledged on Friday that it was not a policy that could be introduced from “day one”.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lucas made a much more modest pitch for the party as a group that puts political pressure on Labour from the left.
“We are a small party, we’ve grown very fast recently… but up until six months ago we were a small party with a shoestring staff… What we are going to do is put forward some radical ideas which this political system needs so badly… and to push Labour to be far more progressive.”
She suggested that a major way in which Labour could be more radical was bringing the rail system back into public ownership.
Asked about the party’s possible demands of it were to go into alliance with Labour, Lucas said: “I don’t think we’ve even got as far as red lines… we would be looking at a case-by-case basis, not with the Tories… the kinds of things we’re going to be talking about is climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, properly investing in home insulation so we can get people back to work and people’s fuel bills down… looking at austerity, not cutting so much of the public centre… bringing the NHS back fully into public hands.”
Lucas faces a tough fight to hold on to her Brighton Pavilion seat against Labour but the Greens are also hoping to gain ground in areas such as Bristol West and Norwich South.
The citizens income has been under particular scrutiny because the architects of the policy at the Citizens Income Trust have acknowledged it could hurt the poorest in society unless means tested.
Lucas said: “The citizen’s income is not going to be in the 2015 general election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8th. It is a longer term aspiration, we are still working on it. The aim is absolutely, to be able to give everybody a guaranteed, non-means tested income, because that means that you can get around the poverty trap…
“When we come to publish our manifesto in March, you will see the workings out that we’ve got. This is not a policy for the next general election, it is lifting the living wage to £10 an hour by the end of this parliament… challenging the austerity of the other parties… what we need to be doing is investing in jobs rather than cutting jobs.”
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