50 years of the Green Party

50 years ago the first public meeting of PEOPLE – which became the Green Party – took place in Coventry on 22 February 1973. Founders, leaders and parliamentarians gathered on Friday to mark the occasion.

Greens gathered with placards
Green World

Green Party founders, leaders and parliamentarians gathered on Friday (24 February) to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Green political movement in the UK – and the first Green Party in Europe. 

Attendees included past and present leaders such as Caroline Lucas MP, Green peer Natalie Bennett, founding members Lesley Whittaker, Michael Benfield and Freda Sanders, and Jean Lambert former MEP. 

The event also marked the opening of the Green Party archive at the London School of Economics called ‘Clothing this Naked Earth: Politics and the planet’. 

50 years ago the first public meeting of PEOPLE took place in Coventry on 22 February 1973. PEOPLE became the Ecology Party in 1975, before eventually becoming the Green Party in 1985.

Former leader Caroline Lucas, who became the party’s first MP in Brighton Pavilion in 2010, said: "The Green Party has come a long way over 50 years – transforming the public debate on the need to tackle the climate and nature crises, winning the political arguments for meaningful action, and being instrumental in the climate emergency declarations from both the UK Parliament and over 300 local authorities. 

“But with time running out, we urgently need more Green MPs to keep challenging the political status quo, demonstrating workable alternatives and standing up for a fairer, greener and more liveable future."

Current deputy leader Zack Polanski added: “I'm so proud of the achievements of the Green Party – over the past few years, we've seen our councillor numbers rapidly rise. 

“We still have a lot of work to do to meet the scale of the crises facing us and I know all over England and Wales members are ready to meet that challenge.”

The Green Party is often assumed to be a single-issue party – focusing solely on problems to do with the environment – and that the principal objective is to get more effective legislation in place to combat pollution, encourage recycling, protect the countryside from excessive development and so on: in effect, to achieve a more environmentally-friendly version of the current system.

But from very early on, the Greens recognised that the system under which we live is the root cause of all the problems, and no amount of reforms could change that.

Peter Barnett created an introduction to green politics for Green World in 2015.