Greens confer in Birmingham

This year’s Autumn Conference was held in our region, at the University of Birmingham.  It was one of the biggest conferences ever, with about 1300 members attending.  There was a big buzz around the election of the new Leaders, Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, who stood as a job-share and won a resounding 85% of the vote.  Amelia Womack was re-elected Deputy Leader, and the party said a warm ‘thank you’ to Natalie Bennett, who stood down after 4 years of service during which the Green Party has grown four-fold.

Conference has two purposes really: to make policy, and to enable activists to network, discuss issues, and get training.  There’s always lots going on!

On the policy-making side, motions (and amendments) can be proposed by any member, so it’s a very democratic process.  (Of course, motions have got a much better chance of being passed if they’ve been thoroughly researched and consulted on).  Just to give you a flavour of the debate, here are the first few motions on the agenda:

  • Opposition to the Conservatives’ Trade Union Act
  • Amending our Terrorism Policy
  • Cost and timescale for nuclear power
  • Recognising Trans identities
  • Statutory right of access to workplaces for Trade Unions
  • Updating our policy on unpaid carers
  • Animal welfare in food processing
  • House of Lords Reform

Conference also makes decisions about the internal running of the party, as well as being where elections are held for a wide range of committees.

In terms of sessions for activists, there were fringe meetings on a wide range of topics (e.g. Universal Basic Income, divestment from fossil fuels, Green Party messaging strategy); training sessions (e.g. communications, running meetings people want to come to, selecting and supporting candidates) and a couple of big panel discussions (‘Progressive Alliances – the case for cross-party working’ and ‘Brexit – what now?’).  I even ran a tour of the Zero Carbon House (zch.org.uk)!

Altogether it was a great weekend – really energising and inspiring.  If you’ve never been to a Green Party Conference, I really do encourage you to.  In fact, the Spring 2017 conference in Liverpool (30 March – 2 April 2017) is going to be quite extraordinary, as we’re combining it with a Global Greens congress (held once every 5 years), a European Green Party Congress, and a Young Greens conference. You can find out a bit more here. Put the dates in your diary now – see you there!

Ellie Chowns, North Herefordshire Green Party

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