By: Victoria Yates
Caroline Lucas was born on the 9th of December 1960 in Malvern, Worcestershire. Her parents, Peter and Valerie Lucas, were middle-class Conservatives with her father running a small central heating company.
Lucas was educated at Malvern Girls’ College before going on to study English Literature at the University of Exeter. Lucas had been involved in activism from a young age, and while at university she was a frequent visitor to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, a heavily attended female encampment set up to protest the decision to allow nuclear weapons to be based there. Lucas also became involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament more widely, and served as an activist in the Snowball Campaign that acted against US military bases in the UK.
After her graduation in 1983, Lucas was given a scholarship to study at the University of Kansas from 1983-84 before taking a diploma in journalism and finally returning to Exeter to complete a PhD in Elizabethan Literature. In 1989, when she graduated, Lucas went on to work as a press officer for Oxfam, a role she held for the next three years. She continued to work for Oxfam in different capacities for the next decade.
Lucas’s involvement with the Green Party began during her postgraduate days in 1986. While still studying, Lucas served as the Party’s National Press Officer from 1987-89 and then as Co-Chair from 1989 until the party amicably separated into three political parties in 1990. At that point Lucas joined the Green Party of England and Wales. She went on to serve in different roles including General Election Speaker and Party Regional Council Member.
In 1991 Lucas married Richard Le Quesne Savage, and the couple went on to have two sons together.
Two years later, in 1993, Lucas ran for a seat on the Oxfordshire County Council. It was her first electoral success and also only the second council seat in the UK for the Green Party. Lucas served in the role for the next four years.
In the 1999 elections, the first by proportional representation, Lucas became a Member of the European Parliament for the South East England Region. She was re-elected in both the 2004 and 2009 elections. Over that period the Green Party’s share of the vote rose from 7.4% to 11.6%.
While at the European Parliament, Lucas worked on numerous committees including those for industry, consumer policy, the environment, and climate change. Lucas was active in many areas of policy and governance, proving herself to be a passionate and versatile politician.
After the 2005 general election the Green Party candidate, Keith Taylor, won the highest vote in Brighton Pavilion constituency (22%). Lucas declared her intention to stand as the Green Party parliamentary candidate for that constituency. In her letter to the party, Lucas underscored her intention only to stand if she won the internal selection by more than 10%. It was a difficult decision for Lucas for family reasons but also because it challenged Taylor, someone for whom she had an immense respect.
In July 2007, Lucas won the selection of the Brighton Green Party with 55% of the vote compared to Taylor’s 45%.
Lucas’s career only continued to gain momentum from there. In 2008 she was elected as the Green Party’s first leader with more than 90% of the vote.
The win was swiftly followed by her election as the Green Party’s first ever MP in the 2010 General Election. She increased her majority in the 2015 Election.
After two years at the Green Party helm, Lucas announced she would be standing down in 2012 to “broaden opportunities for the range of talent in the party and to raise the profiles of others aspiring to election.”
Besides her posts, Lucas has never shied away from tackling a divisive or controversial issue she believes in. For example, she threw her weight behind the campaigners of the Smash EDO campaign, and opposed the continued use of page three girls (topless models) in papers like The Sun. In 2013, the latter spilled over into the Commons when she wore a t-shirt with the logo “No More Page Three” to a debate. Lucas was reprimanded for transgressing the dress code.
In 2013 Lucas was also arrested for taking part in a nonviolent protest against the Cuadrilla Resources fracking operation. Afterwards, Lucas was charged with obstructing a public highway but was found not guilty.
Alongside her actions Lucas has written a large number of reports, articles and books on the areas she passionately campaigns on. Among her work is “Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto”. This was co-authored with Mike Woddin and focuses on localisation of economies and greater social and environmental responsibility. In 2015, Lucas published a book on her time as the first Green MP titled “Honourable Friends: Parliament and the Fight for Change.”
Her work has earned her numerous accolades. Amongst these is her 2006 Michael Kay Award for outstanding contribution to European animal welfare. She is frequently listed on “influence” tables, including coming top ten in the New Statesmen Person of the Year Award, 2006, and placing in The Guardian’s 2008 “50 people who could save the planet.”
Throughout her career, Lucas has been a vocal and progressive activist for causes she staunchly believes. Many see her as the powerhouse behind the Green Party’s rise into the public consciousness in the UK. Beyond her political leadership role, she has continues to be a force that shapes and incites national debate.