You’ve been to many Party conferences, how do you think this year’s instalment in Brighton will compare?
I have been to a lot of conferences but I am really excited about this autumn conference in Brighton. We are seeing a transformation in the attitude voters have towards the Green Party, with millions more people willing to vote Green. This Conference is about how to translate that support into votes and seats at next year's general election.
We are (probably) just over a year away from a General Election – how does this conference contribute to our plans?
As I said, Conference is all about the 2024 general election. This is a vital election for us to hold Brighton Pavilion and build from there to have four to six MPs after the next election. It is useful that so many activists will be in Brighton because we hope they are going to get to know it well over the next year! But we'll also need them in Bristol, Waveney Valley, Herefordshire North and our other target seats. Conference will build enthusiasm and momentum for these target seat campaigns and reinforce a culture of winning at Westminster.
What are likely to be the overarching themes for the Autumn Conference?
I am using the hashtag #SeriousAboutWestminster. We know that people vote for us in local elections and that, when they have Green councillors, they like what they get. We need to take the next step as a Party to becoming a party of national politics and ultimately a party of government. We need to demonstrate that we have practical, workable answers for people's day-to-day concerns from the cost of living to the NHS, as well as being the leader on responses to the climate crisis. That is what this Conference is all about – showcasing the Green Party as a party of solutions nationally, and supporting activists to do that locally as well.
Are there any policy debates that merit special mention?
There is still time to decide what gets onto the Conference floor by participating in the prioritisation ballot. My focus is very much on the general election, so making sure we have strong policy on a four-day working week and bans on the advertising of energy-intensive products and services. I'm also interested in a motion from the General Election Steering Group that aims to ensure we stand as many candidates as possible.
From experience, what do you find to be the most energising aspects of the annual conferences?
With my External Comms hat on my main focus is more on what happens outside the Conference hall – so on TV and radio, and formal and social media channels. I predict we will have some interesting proposals to make on housing that should grab some headlines. More personally, I think perhaps we need another hashtag: #PeopleMakeConference! For me, it is so valuable to meet up with old political friends but also be challenged by people with new ideas. There is lots to learn from and celebrate about our political successes in other parts of the country and ideas to share about what works – and what doesn't!
Why do you think this is an essential event for activists to attend?
Media training! You won't be surprised to hear me say that. There has been a step-change in the way Greens perform on media in recent years but you can never have enough Greens offering positive solutions on the local radio or in local newspapers. How to hone a message to attract the eye of journalists and win votes is as essential skill for activists as designing and delivering the perfect leaflet.
The AGM is taking place separately from the Conference this year. How will this change the experience of the Conference?
I hope party members will also attend the AGM, which is the business end of a democratic political party. Holding it separately means that Conference itself can focus more on showcasing the practical solutions we are offering to the electorate as well as building our own strengths, skills and networks.
A note from the Party:
Mark Steel, award-winning comedian, writer and broadcaster, will headline a night of stand-up comedy with a dash of politics on Friday 6 October, 8pm at the Brighton Centre.
The ‘One Night Only' event in support of the Green Party will include performances from some of stand-up’s top acts. Names to be announced!
All proceeds from the night will go towards the Green Party's election campaign funds, helping to get the next generation of MPs elected.