Honourable Friends? Parliament And The Fight For Change by Caroline Lucas MP
Reviewed by Honor May Eldridge
As the first MP from the Green Party to ever hold a seat in the UK Parliament, Caroline Lucas is a critical voice in the progressive movement. As she states clearly in her introduction, this book is “not a conventional political memoir, written during a time of reflection. Nor is it a manifesto”. Instead, its a candid discussion of what see has seen during her tenure and what she believes needs to change.
For Lucas, the issues facing the UK system are multi-facetted. Firstly, “mainstream political parties lacked the the courage to adopt radical solutions to the social and environmental problems we face” and therefore haven’t provided the leadership that we so desperately need, which as dampened “alternative voices speaking up”. As the strongest voice of the Green Party in the UK and as a public figure, she clearly feels the need to speak up herself and encourage others to join her.
Secondly, the public has become disillusioned by their MPs who they see as disconnected and entitled. The expenses scandal brought this opinion into stark relief. She acknowledges the temptation and how easy it is to fall into bad habits saying “many MPs work hard but the combination of status and power is still heady. If you are ready to accept it all at face value, the place will treat you like minor royalty – bringing with it the risk tat you lose your sense of perspective”. However, her distain for those that fall into such a trap isn’t disguised when she adds “there is a sense of entitlement that pervades this place like a colorless and odorless gas, creeping along the corridors and under every door”.
Lastly, the system itself is so entrenched that reform seems almost impossible to many with many of the worst attributes being disguised as traditions. For her “the top hats and side-whiskers may have gone but the attitudes are still the same”. This isn’t necessarily purely due to inertia but rather recalcitrance. Lucas voices this opinion strongly saying “the current voting system in Parliament is not just a piece of inert tradition but actively malign”. Lucas’ desire to change the status quo jumps off the page. Her parliamentary actions back up this position from her stance against Page 3 girls to her arrest for protesting fracking.
Of course, the book elaborates her position on key issues. She explains her standing on nuclear energy, feminism, the welfare state, the NHS and the wider British economy among a whole host of other issues. With each, she outlines the current state of play and clearly details what she believes needs to happen and with each, her passion and sense of responsibility leaves a profound impression.
Caroline Lucas is a critical and necessary voice in the UK political dialogue and hopefully will remain so for many years to come. Her book is a clear outline of her vision and essential reading for anyone interested in UK politics.