The Greens came to Scarborough in a celebratory mood.
On the back of the best local election results in the party’s history, and over two million Green votes in the Euro elections, the conference was themed around the surging ‘Green Wave’. As the sea rolled back and forth on the Scarborough sands, Conference attendees were greeted by free vegan cupcakes, light jazz and a first day of glorious sunshine.
Deputy Leader Amelia Womack opened Conference by delivering a heartfelt thank you to the activists who worked so hard to deliver the amazing results of May 2019. New councillors and MEPs were greeted with cheers and the unsung heroes of many a campaign – election agents, canvassers, leafleters and envelope stuffers – received standing ovations.
Co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry kept up the positivity, highlighting in their keynote speech that the Euro elections saw the Greens beat the Conservatives for the first time ever in a national election. Their jubilation at the election results achieved was tempered with realism about how far politics still needs to go, with Bartley and Berry reminding Conference that whilst ‘we have won the argument about delaying the end of the world, we owe our young people much more than winning them a few more years’. Jonathan and Sian set out a range of Green policies – from planting billions of new trees, to championing a new Green Deal providing well-paid work for everyone – to pave the way for a better world.
Green Party members then got to work, debating and making policy to help deliver that world.
Policies passed by the Conference included a new Green tax policy, designed to make tax in the UK simpler and more effective at bringing in revenue. The new policy abolishes a range of taxes, replacing them with a Consolidated Income Tax on all personal income and a single Land Value Tax.
This simplified system will close the tax loopholes that the current complex system creates, dealing a hammer blow to the tax avoidance industry and clawing back more funds for public services. The Land Value Tax at the heart of the new policy will also help to ensure a fairer system, directing taxation of property squarely onto those who benefit from it – property owners – while lifting renters and small businesses tenants out of tax.
Other policies passed included a commitment to cease government promotion for all arms manufacturing industries, and a pledge to support people to transition to more plant-based diets. A keenly supported motion saw the Party re-affirm its recognition of the climate emergency, and its determination to lead work across society to make dealing with it a priority.
A simplified tax system will close the loopholes that the current system creates, dealing a hammer blow to the tax avoidance industry
Conference also recognised that, as the Green Party’s voice is needed more than ever, it is crucial that the party functions as effectively as possible. Members voted to move the Holistic Review governance reforms further forward, following a 70 per cent approval vote for the reforms in a party-wide ballot held in January.
Spring Conference passed two follow-up motions that provide a detailed blueprint to enact the reforms, enabling the party to better set the political agenda. This means that there is just one more stage to go in the Holistic Review process, when Autumn Conference will be asked to sign off updated constitutional documents to bring the new governance structure into being. Green Party members can read a full update on the Holistic Review in the Governance and Organisation section of the new Members’ Website.
The progression of the Holistic Review means there are going to be some exciting new Green opportunities to look out for in the autumn, from elections to the new Green Party Council to new digital tools that will allow all members to vote on future Conference motions, whether at Conference or at home. Watch this space!
Spring Conference 2019 also saw the launch of another member-led process: the review of the Rights and Responsibilities chapter of Green Party policy. This chapter sets out the Green Party’s commitment to the rights of disadvantaged groups in society, and to encouraging everyone’s responsibility to respect those rights. The review seeks to update this chapter to reflect the latest challenges facing disadvantaged groups and will be led by a Task and Finish group comprising members from a diverse range of genders, ethnicities and sexualities, who will report back to a future conference.
After four days of policy-making, skill-sharing and socialising, Spring Conference ended with a closing speech from Amelia Womack, thanking staff and the many volunteers who made conference happen. Amelia confirmed the location and dates of Green Autumn Party Conference: 4-6 October in Newport.
By then, we could be just weeks away from the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit and will have endured another planet-scorching summer. In Newport, as in Scarborough, Greens will stand together to say yes to Europe and no to climate chaos. See you there.
Tickets for the Autumn Conference are available from tomorrow (5 July).