Green party MP Caroline Lucas to stand down at next election

<span>Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA</span>
Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Caroline Lucas has said she feels more optimistic about the environment than when she first joined the Green party in 1986, as she prepares to retire from parliament after 13 years as her party’s only MP.

Lucas told the Guardian she felt “gratitude” for her career as the Greens’ first ever MP, adding that she took heart that many of the causes she has long championed were now the policies of Labour and the Conservatives.

“The threats to the environment are ever more immediate, and the nature of the climate emergency is unfolding before our eyes,” she said.

“However, balancing and outweighing that is that so much has changed [since she joined the party in 1986]. We have got a whole generation of young people who are so committed to the cause. Some businesses are taking an alternative approach. The economics of shifting to a green economy are becoming clearer.”

Lucas announced on Thursday morning she would not stand for re-election in Brighton Pavilion, a seat she has represented since 2010, adding that serving as an MP meant she had “struggled” to spend time fighting for the environment.

She told the Guardian: “I have become ever more motivated to dedicate myself fully to climate and nature, whereas at the moment I have to be the frontbench spokesperson on everything from benefits to Brexit.”

Lucas has been the most high-profile member of the Green party for decades, as an MEP and MP and, on two occasions, as its leader. She first won her seat with a majority of 1,252 and has increased it at the subsequent three elections, with voters returning her to parliament with a majority of almost 20,000 in 2019.

During her time at or near the top of the party, she has helped transform it into a serious electoral force. Lucas spearheaded a change in strategy under which members elected leaders for the first time and focused their campaign efforts in parts of the country where they were most likely to win.

That strategy bore fruit earlier this year, when the party achieved its best ever local election results, winning 241 council seats and gaining majority control of a council for the first time, in Mid Suffolk. However, it also lost control of Lucas’s own local council in Brighton and Hove.

Natalie Bennett, who succeeded Lucas as party leader in 2012, said: “Caroline has been an absolute colossus for the Green party and for the country.”

Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, the party’s current co-leaders, described Lucas as a “force of nature”.

Lucas also earned tributes from other parties’ MPs. Labour’s Chris Bryant called her “a beacon in a dark time”. The Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said her departure would be a “loss to parliament”, and the SNP’s John Nicolson said she had been “a fine constituency representative and a principled advocate for change”.

Lucas is one 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, the Conservative former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab and the former deputy Labour leader Margaret Beckett.