What I did at Conference
David Flint attended the Green Party of England & Wales Autumn Conference
Party conference is a confusing affair. That’s partly because there’s a lot of it – at one time in Bristol there were nine events running in parallel. And partly because it’s complicated. Many of the events are part of the democratic and formal processes that the party uses to decide policy and those processes can take years!
As a member of four policy working groups (PWGs) I’m heavily involved in this. Here’s how Bristol was for me.
I started by running a meeting of the Climate Change Policy Working Group (CC PWG). The group has nearly 100 members and about 60 people came to this meeting. A lot of the work of researching and writing party policy is done by PWGs and last year we got conference to replace the old climate change policy. This meeting discussed what we’ve done since and people suggested new areas to work on. Some even volunteered to do the work! It also re-elected me as convener – against no competition.
Our focus since last autumn has been on applying the party’s climate change policy to related policy areas such as transport and agriculture so I went to meetings about the new draft Food and Agriculture (F&A) policy. The F&A PWG has accepted our view that the policy should include an emissions reduction target and should be backed by work showing how it can be achieved. The policy will be revised and brought back to next conference.
Addressing climate change will be very expensive so CCPWG members have been contributing to our new Tax and Fiscal (T&F) policy. I wanted to go to the T&F policy workshop (a meeting of a few dozen people) but I had to be in a different meeting. The T&F PWG wanted the whole conference to approve the new policy but so much time was taken up in debating major changes in party structure (the ‘holistic review’) that we ran out of time.
The restructuring discussion is far from over and we’ll all be asked to vote on it later this year. What joy! But I digress.
The T&F and F&A PWGs are completely rewriting their policy chapters but conference can make small changes by just passing a motion. That’s why I proposed a motion that would modify our transport policy to ban the sale of fossil-fuelled cars and vans from 2025. I gave my introductory speech to the workshop and since I’d discussed the issues with the Transport PWG I was expecting easy agreement. So I was quite surprised when Caroline Russell, GP transport spokesperson, opposed it!
The workshop discussed the issues civilly and voted to reject the Caroline’s changes. Well, that’s democracy. After the workshop Caroline and I went into a quick huddle and found a compromise.
And after all that there was no time for the full conference to debate it due to the time taken by the holistic review!
So, onward to the next conference