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Brighton goes Green

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Perhaps the only party to emerge with a smile from last night’s ragbag of results was the Greens, whose leader, MEP Caroline Lucas, scored a first for them, gaining a parliamentary seat for Brighton Pavilion.

The swing of 8.4 per cent from Labour to Green was just enough to leave Lucas with a majority of nearly 1,252 in what is now an effective three-way marginal.

This result won’t set the world on fire, but it does show that it is not impossible for Greens to win in the world of first-past-the-post voting. Brighton Pavilion is, however, a highly unusual seat.

Brighton is seen by some as one of the focal points of British alternative culture: on the sexual front, it vies with Manchester as "queer capital of the UK". Ms Lucas would probably not have done quite so well just across the county border, where it seems more likely that she might have disgusted, rather than delighted, the solid citizens of Tunbridge Wells.

Lucas is a fierce and seasoned debater. Her victory means the arrival in parliament of a strong voice arguing for a Green alternative. She is likely to be one of the most radical MPs now seated on the green leather of the House of Commons. Lucas will be pushing for a more equal society, with statutory maximum as well as minimum pay, positive action for women – for instance, requiring 40 per cent of board members of large companies to be female within the next five years – and a better deal for pensioners.

She will also be pushing for government to view drugs and drug addiction as health, not crime, issues.

Lucas’ election puts the seal on what is now an established tradition in UK politics of radicalism and anti-establishment voting in the Brighton area.

Take a look at a map of the South-East, and within a sea of blue – the Tories currently hold 73 seats against 4 each for Lib Dem and Labour and one for the Greens – you will find a small island of Green and Orange clustered around Brighton. Neighbouring Lewes and Eastbourne are Lib Dem strongholds.

Perhaps it's something in the water. Perhaps it’s the social scene. But there is definitely something about Brighton that doesn’t sit comfortably with the heart of true bluedom. ®

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