Greens win first ever seat in British parliament

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The Green Party gained their first ever seat in Britain's parliament on Friday when their leader Caroline Lucas won in the south coast constituency of Brighton Pavilion.

While Green parties are a feature in many European legislatures and have been in coalition governments in Germany, France, Belgium, Finland and Ireland, they have never before held a seat in Britain's elected lower House of Commons.

"Tonight the people of Brighton Pavilion have made history by electing Britain's first Green MP at Westminster," Lucas said after taking the seat from the ruling Labour Party.

"Thank you so much for putting your faith in me and the Green Party. Thank you so much for putting the politics of hope above the politics of fear."

British parliamentary elections return the candidate with the most votes in each constituency, meaning smaller parties are squeezed out to a much greater extent than under proportional representation systems.

The breakthrough marks the culmination of a gradual rise to power for the Greens in Britain.

The Green Party of England and Wales -- there are separate but related Green parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland -- traces its roots back to 1973.

The left-wing group's first electoral breakthrough came in 1999 when two members were returned to the European Parliament, including Lucas.

Timothy Beaumont, a life member of parliament's unelected upper House of Lords, defected to the Greens in 1999. He died in 2008.

Three Greens were elected to the first London Assembly in 2000 but they now have two of the 25 seats.

At the last general election in 2005, Green candidate Keith Taylor narrowly came third in Brighton Pavilion, garnering 22 percent of the vote.

But the result marked it out as their top target seat for this time round.

Lucas said Taylor will now take over her Brussels seat.

Besides beating Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, Lucas edged out the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the Socialist Labour Party, Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality and an independent.

Lucas, 49, has been a member of the European Parliament for the South East England region since 1999.

She is also vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)and the Stop the War Coalition.

Lucas was an activist in the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament, making regular visits to the Greenham Common airbase peace camp protest against US cruise missiles.

She joined the Green Party in 1986 and became its first leader in September 2000, winning 92 percent of the vote in a two-person race.

© 2010 AFP

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