East Midlands Green Party recently held its first in-person regional conference for three years, after the interruption of the Coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. Nearly seventy members – from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland – gathered together in the magnificent St Martin's House Conference Centre in Leicester to take up the political baton again.
It was great fun to meet others and discuss current affairs, and exchange our plans for the future. My goodness, we need some hope and optimism after three years of the Boris Johnson Government and the prospect of Liz Truss!
Conference was opened by our Co-coordinators, Martin Blake and Rachael Hatchett, and our own Field Organiser, Laurie Needham. Recognising the range of political knowledge and experience within the room, our facilitators encouraged us to examine questions of hope and aspiration, but also of some reality, regarding where we might contribute collectively towards the Green Party's National Strategy.
In short, sharp table discussions we went "Back to the Future" – responding to set questions and then reporting back to the whole room, with our comments recorded by our three facilitators. Then Ed Fraser outlined the Green Party's strategic planning to deliver more MPs at the next General Election – "Forward to the Future"!
The plan is based on evidence of increasing support for the Party and the growing numbers of local councillors across the country. Ed highlighted the promise for Carla Denyer in Bristol West at the next general election, appealing to members to support Action Days in key constituencies. Unfortunately, as a region, we have no constituencies of our own where we might have a realistic chance of getting an MP at the moment – however, this means our efforts can be deployed elsewhere.
After lunch, three key speakers delivered engaging political speeches in the Grand Hall, while Laurie, our Field Organiser, delivered training sessions for activists in the nearby committee room. The first speaker was economist, journalist, and broadcaster Ann Pettifor, who made the case for the Green New Deal as the antidote – sustainable, green growth – for our currently declining economy.
Our economy is largely now a "rentier economy", working for the benefit of the one per cent who own assets rather than the majority who work for their living. Painting a pretty scary picture of economic collapse following the likely fallout from this extreme and ideologically right-wing government, she urged courage and focus in arguing the case for economics that will stimulate recovery. This would be based upon Green principles and ambition, putting money into the hands of people who desperately need it – and will spend it – reviving our economic fortunes.
Frank Adlington-Stringer (East Midlands Young Greens Officer) and Jane Baston (West Midlands) spoke about inspiring and involving young people in politics. Why do young people feel that politics is so alien? Why do older people dominate all the forums and exclude the widest interests of the young? How can the Green Party mobilise interest in schools, colleges, and universities? We must be open and inclusive and welcome young people to join our party and influence positive change.
Finally, Dr Sally Ruane talked of our duty to NHS staff – the health service's greatest asset. She described the NHS as a wonderful institution, one which should and must be supported, protected, and invested in. Many staff feel overworked, underpaid and demoralised. The Green Party should be proactive and supportive of NHS staff in the extremely difficult winter ahead and the likely (but reluctantly taken) industrial action by nurses, doctors, paramedics, and administrative and backup staff.
After an interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring day, some of the attendees retired to a nearby, ancient, public house to continue discussions, sharing news and ideas from across the region.