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