Originally published in Green World 87
Anyone who has attended conference as a first timer (which is anyone who has ever been to conference!) will probably have felt baffled by our policy debates. Policies for a Sustainable Society, a living document containing all the policies agreed at successive conferences, expresses what we stand for and forms the basis of our manifestos, but can only be updated, extended and amended through a process that can seem very obscure. Common questions include: 'Why are there no amendments from the conference floor?'; 'Who was consulted about the wording of the motion?'; and 'How can members not present at conference have their voices heard?'
These are issues that our current policy process does little to address. At present, just four members (out of 38,000 and rising) need to agree a policy motion for it to appear on the conference agenda. No consultation with the wider party is required, beyond posting the basic idea on the members' website by the pre-agenda deadline, and there is no need to take advice from external bodies that have expertise in the topic. Members who put forward amendments to motions in the first agenda don't even need to contact the original proposers, let alone try to come to an agreement with them.
The current policy process was drawn up with the best of intentions, but in the internet age is tremendously inflexible. Ideas for the upcoming spring conference (6-9 March 2015) had to be put forward by 12 November 2014 - when most members use instant forms of communication rather than pen-and-paper, this time lag can make the Green Party far less responsive than is needed.
What can we do about it? Policy Committee has drawn up a discussion document that sets out many of the problems with the current process and suggests some possible solutions. We'd like all members of the party who are interested in policy - whether or not they have ever attended conference - to get involved in the discussion forum that accompanies this article. Find it at: my.greenparty.org.uk/forum/policy-forums/policy-process-consultation
Sam Riches is GPEx Policy Development Co-ordinator, in a job-share with Carrie Bowes