The Green Party’s National Campaigns Co-ordinator, Romayne Phoenix reports on the party’s recent conference.
Delegates voted to "support national and local campaigns against cuts in public services and to use everything in our power when in opposition or in office to oppose them"
The Green Party headed to Cardiff for Spring Conference just days before the ‘Vote Yes for Wales’ referendum. We were warmly welcomed by the leader of Wales Green Party, Jake Griffiths, who finds himself on target to win the first Green seat on the Welsh Assembly. Polling around 9%, and with a proportional voting system, this really looks like their breakthrough year.
With Green Party membership up by 50% since Spring 2009 many new members were at their first conference.
Caroline Lucas MP delivered her longest and best speech since becoming leader of the party. Confident and relaxed, she attacked the coalition government’s ideologically driven plans. She denounced the Labour Party opposition as ‘utterly contaminated’ . How could we be asked to listen to them opposing the NHS market model, tuition fee costs and the Royal Mail sell off when such business had all started under a Labour government. David Cameron’s opportunistic use of his trip to the Middle East to promote the British arms trade she described this as ‘morally obscene’.
The Young Greens have been working at the heart of the student protests around the country, and this weekend supported UK Uncut action in Cardiff . They formally endorsed the student occupation at Aberystwyth University, and demanded more money from the main party to produce their magazine. Since the tuition fees vote passed through Parliament they have gained 750 new members.
With over thirty fringe meetings plus training sessions, policy debates and workshops, the conference agenda was full and, as always, some tough choices had to be made on issues like councillors and the cuts , the alternative vote , nuclear power and the myth of bio fuels. Green Left added a further option, finding a nearby venue to host a discussion on working class representation within the party. With the launch at this conference of an initiative to support ‘Diversity Champions’ to help build the membership from a more representative cross section of our local communities, it seems that further discussion regarding ‘outreach’ work may well be planned for the Autumn Conference in Sheffield.
Joseph Healy’s well attended fringe discussed the future of the anti-war movement. Jane Shallice of Stop the War Coalition, spoke about the continuing need to keep up the pressure on the government and to draw clear links between war expenditure and the cuts, particularly on the national anti-cuts demonstration on March 26th.
Joseph also proposed a motion to conference calling for any future military action to be fully and openly costed and approved by Parliament in advance and throughout the conflict.
The Greens will now campaign for the transfer of power to declare war from the Prime Minister to Members of Parliament, opening responsibility for military decisions to a more democratic process.
Considering a motion on current proposals for high speed rail (HSR) investment members discussed the economic and environmental arguments and decided that under these plans the benefits were not proven. HSR would need to be delivered within an overall plan where energy use, carbon emission reductions and ‘land take’ were significantly reduced whilst not increasing transport demand.
The cuts and local public services motion raised important issues for debate. Dealing with the need for genuine participation in local decision making, the motion reflected the serious concerns regarding the coalition government budget cuts to local councils. Conference voted in favour of the whole motion which included the commitment to
"support national and local campaigns against cuts in public services and to use everything in our power when in opposition or in office to oppose them"
Councillors alone will not be able to stop the cuts. That is the job of the anti cuts movement. Greens will support their local campaigns and build for the TUC day on 26th March. The battle will need to be won at a national level but local communities will make it clear what they need from their locally elected representatives too.