I have just returned from the Autumn Conference in Sheffield where 500+ delegates chewed over a wide range of issues. The venue was excellent and the company was stimulating, as ever.
The highlight for me was seeing one of our recent recruits, Vicky, immerse herself into the Conference, eager to learn and participate. And Tormie had a great time in the creche too!
Of the debates, fringes and workshops, the highlights for me were:
- My maiden speech to conference making the case for the Party calling for an immediate moratorium – as opposed to a motion to call for an immediate outright ban – on fracking. This won the day convincingly.
- Conference voting to pass an emergency motion calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to stop using IT firm ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants. Concerns have been raised over the company’s suitability to conduct assessments, ranging from the lack of disabled access at their assessment centres to the shocking fact that 40% of their decisions have been found to be wrong on appeal
- An excellent fringe meeting where Keith Taylor MEP was joined by the chief executive of Buglive and the founder of the Sheffield Honey Company to discuss why bees matter and what we can all do to boost their numbers.
- An impassioned fringe calling for the Green Party to do more to embrace the ‘working class’ within its ranks, and counter the middle class image it sometimes portrays.
- An interesting fringe what stance the Green Party should be taking to so-called ‘Free Schools’ and Academies. As you can possibly imagine , I had a fair bit to say at this one.
- A somewhat Wales focussed workshop on the Severn Barrage, which I successfully argued to be referred back for further work, as it was riddled with myths and based on out of date information.
- It was great to see close links with some Trade Unions emerging, especially the PCS. Campaigners from PCS and FairPensions – who run JustPay!, the national campaign for Living Wage standards at FTSE 100 companies – will meet in Sheffield to urge all employers to pay the Living Wage rate; the minimum hourly wage necessary for housing, food and other basic needs for an individual and their family. The Living Wage currently stands at £8.30 per hour in London and £7.20 per hour for regions outside of the capital. This would have a huge positive impact on Bridgend.
Less inspiring was the inordinate amount of workshop and plenary time taken up thrashing out the regrettable mess GPEx managed to oversee in terms of making the Head of Media Relations redundant immediately after the Cardiff Conference. Hopefully, lessons will now have been learned and the Party will now be much closer to being the model employer we should have a right to expect it to be.
See more news of what went on at Conference here: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news.html?start=10 and here: http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23gpconf
PS – I finally got round to joining Green Left while at conference – next task is to find out the significance of the watermelon! http://thewatermelon.wordpress.com/