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LeaderTony Whittaker
National SecretaryLesley Whittaker
FounderTony Whittaker
Lesley Whittaker
Freda Sanders
Michael Benfield
FoundedFebruary 1972 [1]
Merger ofClub of Thirteen
Movement for Survival
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byThe Ecology Party
IdeologyGreen politics
Part of a series on
Green politics
Sunflower symbol

The PEOPLE Party was a political party in the United Kingdom, founded in February 1972. It was the first Green political party in the United Kingdom and Europe as a whole,[2] and the political predecessor of the Green Party of England and Wales, Green Party of Scotland and the Green Party of Northern Ireland.[2]


In the winter of 1972[3] Lesley Whittaker, a surveyor and property agent, bought a copy of Playboy magazine in which there was an interview with Paul R. Ehrlich about overpopulation. This article inspired Whittaker and her husband Tony, a former Kenilworth councillor for the Conservative Party, to form a small group of professional and business people called 'Club of Thirteen', so named because it first met on 13 October 1972 in Daventry. This 'Club' included surveyors and property agents Freda Sanders and Michael Benfield, who had similar ideas to the Whittakers, and worked with them in their practice in Coventry.


Many in this 'Club' were wary of forming a political party however after a few weeks in November 1972 the Whittakers, Sanders and Benfield agreed to form 'PEOPLE' as a new political party to challenge the UK political establishment.[4] Its policy concerns published in 1973 included economics, employment, defense, energy (fuel) supplies, land tenure, pollution and social security, as then seen within an ecological perspective. Subsequently recognized as perhaps the world's earliest Green party this had the first edition of the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society as a background statement of policies inspired by A Blueprint for Survival (published by The Ecologist magazine). The editor of The Ecologist, Edward 'Teddy' Goldsmith (elder brother of the financier James Goldsmith), merged his Italian 'Movement for Survival' with PEOPLE. Goldsmith became one of the leading members of the new party during the 1970s.

General elections[edit]

February 1974[edit]

The party stood six candidates in the February 1974 General Election. They received a total of 4,576. The party lost all of its deposits by failing to win 12.5% of the votes cast, namely a total of £900 (equivalent to £9,200 in 2018).[5] Lesley Whittaker and Edward Goldsmith were two of the six who stood in the election.

Constituency Candidate Votes Percentage Position[6]
Coventry North East Alan H Pickard 1,332 2.8 3
Coventry North West Lesley Whittaker 1,542 3.9 3
Eye Edward Goldsmith 395 0.7 4
Hornchurch Benjamin Percy-Davies 619 1.3 4
Leeds North East Clive Lord 300 0.7 4
Liverpool West Derby D B Pascoe 388 0.9 4

October 1974[edit]

Membership rose and the party stood five candidates in the October General Election which cost the party £750. This affected preparations for that election,[citation needed] when PEOPLE's average vote fell to just 0.7%.

Constituency Candidate Votes Percentage Position[6]
Birmingham Northfield Elizabeth A Davenport 359 0.7 4
Coventry North West Lesley Whittaker 313 0.8 4
Hornchurch Benjamin Percy-Davies 797 1.8 4
Leeds East Norma Russell 327 0.7 4
Romford L H C Sampson 200 0.5 4

1975 conference[edit]

After much debate, the party's 1975 conference adopted a proposal to change its name to the Ecology Party to gain more recognition as the party of environmental concern.[7]

Party co-founder Tony Whittaker noted in an interview with Derek Wall '… voters did not connect PEOPLE with ecology. What I wanted was something that the media could look up in their files so that, when they wanted a spokesman of the issue of ecology, they could find the Ecology Party and pick up the phone. It was as brutal and basic as that. PEOPLE didn't communicate what we had hoped it would communicate'.[4]

Derek Wall, in his history of the Green Party, contends that the new political movement focused initially on the theme of survival, which shaped the "bleak evolution" of the nascent ecological party during the 1970s. Furthermore, the effect of the "revolution of values" during the 1960s would come later. In Wall's eyes, the party suffered from a lack of media attention and "opposition from many environmentalists", which contrasted the experience of other emerging Green parties, such as Germany's Die Grünen. Nonetheless, PEOPLE invested much of its resources in engaging with the indifferent environmental movement, which Wall calls a "tactical mistake".[7]


  1. ^ Independent - The Green Party: a short history (23rd November 2014)
  2. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Ecology and Environmental Management. John Wiley & Sons. 15 July 2009. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-4443-1324-6.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2015-03-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b Derek Wall (2006-10-17). "Another Green World: green party hist ch1, pt 2". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  5. ^ As winning at least 12.5% of votes was required between 1918 and 1985 to obtain a refund of a candidate's deposit.
  6. ^ a b F. W. S. Craig, Minor Parties at British Parliamentary Elections, p.77
  7. ^ a b Wall, Derek, Weaving a Bower Against Endless Night: An Illustrated History of the Green Party, 1994