Well I've just been helping to put together a press release about Greens going from across the County joining the Green Party Annual Conference in North London last weekend. Some of this blog includes chunks from that draft and more....apols for hurried nature - there are also several other blogs on items from the conference - a couple more tomorrow.
These are exciting times for the Green Party. Whilst there is general distrust and a lack of enthusiasm for the three main parties, there is hope that the first Green MPs will be elected to Westminster in the next election. Caroline Lucas, the party leader and MEP, said Greens are on the verge of an ‘historic breakthrough’ after polls suggested she will beat the ruling Labour Party in Brighton. In her keynote leader's speech she highlighted the key themes for the Greens general election campaign - creating new jobs, protecting the NHS and tackling inequality.
Martin Whiteside, the Green Party Parliamentary candidate for Stroud and a District Councillor (Martin in photo of one of the workshops), who was at the conference, observed that, “Stroud saw Greens polling 20% in elections across the District last year, ahead of Labour and level with the Lib Dems. Electing an MP from one of the big three parties is business as usual. Stroud has a chance to do something different."
One of the speakers at conference noted that Ed Milliband understands climate change but can't act as the measures needed are not - in his parties view - acceptable to the public. A Green vote will let the big parties know otherwise.
Anyway what else? The party fully endorsed the so-called Robin Hood Tax, a tax on international bank speculation that could raise hundreds of billions for the NHS, schools and international development. Greens also argued that by scrapping Trident and expensive Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) in the NHS, the Green Party could save billions that would be put towards creating jobs where they are needed.
Maximum wage policy
Here's the quote sent in from me to the press - Philip Booth, a Stroud District councillor said of conference: "It is always good to hear about the challenges and successes other Greens are facing. It is an opportunity to learn and be inspired. Never has there been a time when Green politics is needed more - not just for the environment but for economics and for social justice"
Philip Booth added: "The conference looked at many measures to tackle inequality and I was delighted that Greens backed a call for a maximum wage policy that would ensure that the pay of the highest-paid person in an organisation should not exceed the lowest-paid by more than a factor of 10. We also backed a call for marriage equality that would allow same-sex civil marriage and for civil partnerships to be available to all."
Updated health policy
One of the major items at conference was the health voting paper, which entirely updated Green party health policy. This added policies on patient empowerment, calling for a new model of patient-owned co-ops for GP practices, to end NHS subsidies for private healthcare, and breastfeeding. The policy now also includes approval, with appropriate ethical guidelines, for all types of stem call research. It was also generally "slimmed down", removing references to particular treatments and drugs.
Green Party Parliamentary candidate for the Forest, James Greenwood, noted, following the voting on health, that: "Greens are a fresh voice in politics. We want to see an end to private funding in the state-run health service and preventative health policies with screening and a crackdown on processed food loaded with salt, sugar and fat." See more re health policies stuff here.
Photo: Stoned man on roof of conference centre
Well as we see the other parties gear up to their conferences there is a frightening degree of commercialisation which is virtually absent from the Green party conference. The Green party, alone it seems amongst the main parties, still makes policy at conference. At conference Greens debate and decide, whereas Labour now have many committees under its NEC and their conference is now the biggest trade fair in the country.
The Tories are even more centralised with the Lib Dems only being slightly better. Indeed the main party conferences seem to be where party bosses sell their policies to an increasingly sceptical audience and outside the hall there is ever more commercialisation. All this only adds to the lack of faith people have in the political process.
Fairness and inequality
The Green Party has always argued that a fairer distribution of the worlds wealth and resources is the key to reversing climate change and environmental damage to the planet and untold human misery that forces people to leave their homes or descend into warfare over limited resources.
Around the country local councils are poised to make 1000’s of people redundant and cut back on vital services. In contrast, one of the Green party's key pledges for the coming general election will be the creation of a million new jobs. The proposed jobs will be in areas such as public transport, green energy, affordable housing and care for elderly people.
James Greenwood added: "We have been calling for the implementation of our Green New Deal – investment in jobs and our infrastructure to give us long-term sustainable and energy-efficient housing."
See Deputy Leader of the Green party, Adrian Ramsay's comment (see photo of him speaking) on Labour's claims for fairness here - and also see his speech to conference here - it was a cleverly crafted speech that took a look at our public services.
Indeed one of the best sessions at conference was chaired by Caroline Lucas and included speeches by author and professor KatiePickett (photo left - see book "The Spirit Level" which I am now reading) and Johann Hari, the Independent journalist (photo below) - excellent speaker with lots of inspiring stories and a passion about tackling inequality - see his most recent column on why the Tories haven't changed here.
Other quotes from Glos Green folk
Matthew Sidford, from Gloucester Green party said: "People thirst for change, yet there's little real change on offer from the other parties. Does anyone believe that Brown has earned another five years in power? Or that Britain will be a fairer and more just place to live if David Cameron becomes Prime Minister?"
Miriam Yagud, a Dursley Town Councillor, said: "All over the country, Green councillors are already making a real difference. Low pay is a real issue in our area. In Lewisham and Norwich, Green Councillors have successfully raised the wages of the lowest paid workers well above the minimum wage. We are protecting jobs and services, and working with people to find creative solutions to local problems.” See more re LOw wage stuff here.
Among the motions passed at conference were:
* Supporting the British Medical Association campaign against privatisation in the NHS.
* Supporting Billy Bragg's campaign against bankers' bonuses.
* On Turkish democracy and Kurdish rights.
* Expressing concern about increasing EU targets on biofuel targets.
* Backing the "Robin Hood tax" and resolving to include a financial transaction tax in the 2010 manifesto
* Backing a post-general election Campaign Against Climate Change event to call on the new government to make climate change its No 1 priority.
* Calling for a campaign against inappropriate funding of political parties.
* Expressing solidarity with the Yarl's Wood protests and calling for the "Yarl's Wood Four" to be released.