Caroline Lucas, illustrated by Nick Taylor.

Caroline Lucas: "Supporting calls for a referendum was the biggest mistake of my political life."

The Green Party MP talks NGOs, Brexit—and the message she'd want to give to Albert Einstein
September 5, 2019
Which book are you most embarrassed to have never read?

Das Kapital.

If you could spend a day in one city or place at one moment in history, where and when would that be?

I’d go back to the day when Albert Einstein realised the potential of the atomic bomb and wrote to President Franklin D Roosevelt urging him to invest in a research programme to develop one. I’d warn him of the repercussions we’re still feeling today and stop him from sending that letter.

What is your favourite quotation?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”—often attributed to Margaret Mead

If you were given £1m to spend on other people, what would you spend it on and why?

I’d hold a citizens’ assembly on climate change—getting 200 representative members of the public into a room over the course of a few months to hear a broad range of impartial evidence. They’d be given the space to explore, question and discuss, before making considered recommendations to politicians about how we should tackle climate breakdown. If we’re going to achieve the bold and urgent transformation our economy needs to deal with the biggest problem we face, it’s vital the public are involved in decisions about how we make that happen.

What do you most regret?

Supporting calls for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union in 2016 was the biggest mistake of my political life. I’d hoped we could have an honest, mature public conversation about our relationship with our closest neighbours and how we can reform the EU to make it more accountable. I wish I’d known how toxic the debate would become.

Are things getting better or worse?

For some, things are getting much better—but our economy is designed to leave too many people behind, and pursue ever increasing profit and growth at great cost to the natural world on which we depend. We need to change how we measure what “better” is—and I think that has to mean looking at the whole picture, from people’s happiness to the health of our planet.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

In the early 1990s I got caught in crossfire in Cambodia while distributing supplies with an NGO. I was engaged to my now husband and all I could think as I hid under a table was: “Oh shit, we should have got married before I came.”

What frightens you most?

Running out of time to experience everything I want to. I’m trying to make more time to be in nature and with my family, to read more books and explore the spiritual aspects of life.

Are you proud of your country?

I’m proud of our people and our culture. I think the vast majority of us are decent, fair minded and willing to help others—and our culture is rooted in values like democracy, free speech and tolerance. I only wish our politics better reflected those principles.