The Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, has announced she is to stand down at the next election.
The former leader of the Green Party told her constituents in southern seat of Brighton Pavilion, that serving as an MP meant she had “struggled” to spend the time she wanted campaigning on the climate crisis.
Her decision to step down as an MP from a seat she has held since 2010, comes a month after her Party lost control of Brighton and Hove council in May’s local elections.
The Greens suffered its worst result since 2003 as Labour gained 18 council seats compared to the last election, securing their first majority council in the City for two decades.
The loss of Brighton and Hove was a surprise and set against an otherwise good set of local election result across England with the Party gaining more than 200 extra council seats.
Dr Sam Power, a politics lecturer from Sussex University, told The Argus, the local newspaper for Brighton and Hove that the election losses had been due a “combination of certain hyper-local factors, the national picture and the Greens being the victims of their own success” had contributed to the,“most disastrous result in their own backyard”.
He went on to highlight several city-wide issues, including concern over the closure of public toilets, traffic along the seafront and a bin strike, that had contributed to a loss of support for the Green Party.
In her letter to constituents, Lucas said: “I have always prided myself on being, first and foremost, a good constituency MP. I’ve done everything possible to help wherever I can and always worked to ensure that people feel heard, that their concerns matter, and that they are not alone.
“But the intensity of these constituency commitments, together with the particular responsibilities of being my party’s sole MP, mean that, ironically, I’ve not been able to focus as much as I would like on the existential challenges that drive me – the nature and climate emergencies.”
Ms Lucas, joins a list of more than 50 MPs who have announced they will not be contesting the next election. They include the former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Conservative MPs: Dominic Raab, Alister Jack, George Eustice, Mark Pawsey, Douglas Ross, Dehenna Davison, Sajid Javid, William Wragg, Chloe Smith, Chris Skidmore, Andrew Percy, Nigel Adams, Adam Afriye, Crispin Blunt, Mike Penning, Gary Streeter, Matt Hancock, Edward Timpson, Jo Gideon, Nadine Dorries, Paul Beresford, Stephen McPartland, Robin Walker, Sir Graham Brady, Pauline Latham, Nicola Richards, Stuart Anderson, Henry Smith, Gordon Henderson, John Howell, Julian Knight, Chris Pincher, Matthew Offord, Craig Whittaker, Jonathan Djanogly, Robert Goodwill, Richard Bacon, Philip Dunne and the former deputy Labour leader Margaret Beckett.
Ms Lucas became the first and only Green party candidate ever elected to parliament when she was elected in 2010.
In comments first reported by The Argus, she said it had been the “privilege of my life to serve this extraordinary constituency and community”. She added: “I have always been a different kind of politician – as those who witnessedmy arrest, court case and acquittal over peaceful protest at the fracking site in Balcombe nearly 10 years ago will recall.
“And the truth is, as these threats to our precious planet become ever more urgent, I have struggled to spend the time I want on these accelerating crises. I have therefore decided not to stand again as your MP at the next election.”
The Green party co-leader Carla Denyer said: “Caroline’s impact on politics in this country cannot be overstated: she truly is a force of nature and has been an extraordinary servant of the people of Brighton Pavilion as well as the Green party. We are so proud of her achievements.”
The joint leader Adrian Ramsay said: “Very few politicians can claim to have changed the course of the national debate in the way Caroline has. She has brought so much to us as a party, shown real integrity in her work and added a crucial dimension to our democracy in this country.
“Having MPs who are genuinely dedicated to standing up for the climate and nature could not be more important than it is right now and that’s why we are striving to get more Green MPs elected at the next general election so that we can build on Caroline’s achievements.”
However, her critic’s suggested Ms Lucas was stepping down for other reasons. One MP told parliamentnews.co.uk that: “no amount of spin can hide that her decision to step down probably had more to do with the resurgence of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove”, adding that in Westminster it was widely expected that, “the seat will turn Red [Labour] at the next election”.