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Exclusive: Green Party leader Caroline Lucas answers your questions

PinkNews Staff Writer May 5, 2010
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Earlier this month, we gave readers the chance to put their questions to Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

The party unveiled a manifesto containing 14 gay-friendly policies and recent polls have shown an increase in Green support.

Currently, the party does not have any MPs, although Ms Lucas, standing for Brighton Pavilion, is its best hope of parliamentary representation.

What would the Green party offer for disabled people? Many LGBT disabled people can’t get into many gay venues, get worse healthcare treatment, lack of access to work, transport, buildings and services. Phillippa Witts

It is totally unacceptable that despite the positive aspects of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, there is still so much work to be done on disability. It is appalling that accessibility for example is still poor, even on the Underground in central London, and that too all often many of the scene’s venues are inaccessible. The Green Party manifesto contains a clear commitment to end this kind of discrimination. We also want to address more ‘hidden’ disabilities such as mental ill health, which Community Care magazine has identified is a significant problem for LGBT people. Greens want to support the work done by organisations like Mind Out in Brighton, including ensuring that services are adequately funded. We welcome the inclusion of HIV in the DDA 2005 but want to go further and so we oppose, for example, New Labour’s targeting of the benefits needed by elderly people with HIV as part of the latest round of cuts. We refer specifically in our manifesto to the rights of disabled people and we continue to campaign for crimes against disabled people, including people with learning difficulties, to be dealt with effectively and on a par with racist crimes.

If one of the Green Party candidates was to make homophobic remarks, such as calling homosexuality unnatural, or as big a risk as fighting in the armed forces, would they be sacked regardless of the safety of the seat they are fighting? Andrew Tindall

We take attitudes to equality incredibly seriously, as is testified to by the work we do daily in council chambers throughout the country, and in the European and Scottish Parliaments. We have more women too standing as parliamentary candidates than any other political party. So if any candidate were to express views that undermined our strong commitment to equality, such as making homophobic comments, I feel utterly confident that the local party would vote to deselect them immediately.

I really like your party policies and your views on many issues including those concerning equality and the environment. However, my main concern with voting for the Green party is the fact it seems like a ‘wasted’ vote. As this is quite a popular view with voters, what will you do to increase the popularity of your party? Alice Jones

Like yourself, it’s often the case that when people look at our policies, they like what they see. More than 25 per cent of users of prefer our policies – far more than agree with those of the other parties. We don’t think voting for policies you believe in is a wasted vote. In Brighton Pavilion where Greens are tipped to win our first seat in Parliament, over one third prefer Green Party policies, ahead of Labour on 25 per cent and the Conservatives on 11 per cent. Voters in Brighton, Norwich and Lewisham are telling us that they are fed up with the mainstream parties and are voting for Greens to stand up for fairness, to take a firm stance on the environment and to cut through the business as usual position of the other parties. Greens also argue for proportional representation because appallingly, only the 200,000 votes in marginal seats really counted in the last election – that’s less than 0.5 per cent of those eligible to vote. Make everyone’s vote count!

How can politicians best deal with the serious issue of homophobic bullying in schools? Stuart Neyton

Greens believe that the issue of bullying in schools is critical to the entire way in which we deal with equality. The horrific killings of Ian Baynham and Andrea Waddell last year are a reminder of the importance of eliminating trans, bi and homophobic hate crimes. Figures from the National Secular Society warn that a rise in religious fundamentalist schools will also lead to an increase in homophobic bullying – incidents are ten per cent higher in faith schools. That’s why rather than allowing anyone to set up their own school, as the Conservative Party are recommending, we want to remove the special treatment which allows faith schools to promote homophobia on the grounds of religion. We are also the only political party to oppose all opt-outs from equality and anti-discrimination laws by religious organisations. Our general election manifesto commits us to comprehensive training for teachers and educational staff on all diversity and inclusion issues; schools to promote equal opportunities in their anti-bullying procedures; and equalities issues to be monitored in teaching recruitment.

In the Guardian, earlier this year Green Party candidate Bea Campbell expressed her support for a transphobic journalist, Julie Bindel, who disagrees with trans rights. I am very impressed with the Green Party’s support for all trans people in its manifesto, however when you have a high-profile candidate who appears to be actively supporting a known transphobe that makes me question your commitment to these policies. Shouldn’t people who question our right to exist be treated in the same way as people who question the right, for example, of Jews or black people to exist? Could you clarify Bea Campbell’s position for me please? Natacha Kennedy

As a party we have strong policies which specifically express the importance of tackling discrimination against, and oppression of, the trans community and our manifesto reiterates our strong position on the completely unacceptable treatment of trans people in society today. Our councillors, London Assembly Members, MEPs and Members of the Scottish Parliament have consistently fought against transphobia and Greens in Westminster will be proud to do the same. A Green Member of the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie, successfully won support for the adoption of the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 which extends the principle of statutory aggravations to cover grounds of hatred based on trans identity as well as disability and sexual orientation. This was the first piece of Green legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament and is the sort of work that we would pursue in Westminster.

Green councillors and activists in Brighton supported trans activist Natasha Thoday in her struggle for human rights. I spoke out about the urgent need to tackle transphobia to mark International Day Against homo, bi and transphobia (IDAHOBIT) in Brighton last year with Michelle Bridgman of the Gender Trust and Denise Anderson from Spectrum London. Recently I have thought long and hard about whether, for eg, I think racists should be given a platform on national TV. My conclusion is that no matter how much we dislike what someone has to say, we must protect their right to say it. This can be difficult to stomach at times but, provided we ensure that such an approach is in this instance underpinned by vigorous condemnation of and action against transphobia, I think it is the right one. Can I be clear: Julie Bindel has caused deep offence and upset with her remarks about the trans community. I completely denounce Bindel’s views but I do defend her right to speak her mind. I think it is important for Bea to speak for herself but I am confident that as one our parliamentary candidates she shares the Green Party’s strong commitment to trans equality.

How would you go about tackling homophobia with roots in organised religion/religious belief? Ani Brooker

The Green approach is humanist but we respect the rights of others to believe in gods or deities. However, when it comes to the special treatment of faith schools to promote homophobia on the grounds of religion, we oppose all opt-outs from equality and anti-discrimination laws by religious organisations.

Would you support reform of blood donor regulations to allow healthy candidates to donate regardless of their sexuality? Ani Brooker

We strongly believe that the blood ban is dated bigotry and refer specifically to the need for a change of policy in our manifesto. While we realise that the blood ban was a knee-jerk reaction to the fear of a HIV epidemic, the Green Party continues to oppose the blood ban as we have done for many years. The manifesto reiterates that we need an end to the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors. New Labour has continued the blood ban, despite the rigorous tests that are carried out on donated blood and the evidence that three in four gay and bisexual mean would donate blood if they were able to.

While we accept that the government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs is reviewing whether the comprehensive ban should remain, Greens point to the positive work of the Anthony Nolan Trust who have lifted their ban on all donations from gay and bisexual men. We believe that this outmoded practice deserves to end not just because it is unfair but because gay and bisexual men far from threatening the lives of patients can be helping to save their lives.

Given the fudge over the climate change debacle and the manipulated data and public resentment of never-ending green taxes, do you feel that you are sailing against the wind with your party’s beliefs? Derek Templeton Northcote

Our party’s core beliefs are have always been about social as well as environmental justice. The only fudge in the climate change debate was caused by the world leaders gathered at the Copenhagen talks!

For a party whose main policies are so dependent on science, the Green Party seems to have rather unorthodox definition of what science is (supporting unproven or disqualified medical treatments among other things). What do you say to this and is the party going to correct that problematic approach? Nicolas

I would challenge your opinion that we support unproven theories – and our policies on health reflect a modern vision of health services which are free at the point of delivery and treatments which are based on rational approaches to science.

More: General Election 2010

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