Party Conference Thoughts – Day 3

Posted on September 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm,

Well, my third day at conference was rather less busy than my second, although it also feels like more happened. I aimed to catch a fringe session that was happening at 9, but was late leaving home, and having missed a lot of it, I instead had a nice chat with the lady running the Green Shop (which sells Green Party stuff to local parties). This was followed by the first of several plenary (voting) sessions during the day.

The first one covered several amendments to the party policy. We threw out a proposed policy update on monetary reform, adopted a proposal on prisoners rights (saying that prisoners should have the vote – which is something that should be happening under European law, and proposing changes that would make prison work better for women). We referred a motion on high speed rail back to the proposers, basically because of the way it was worded. We approved a motion in support of co-operative home ownership, and we finished with an update to our equality and diversity policy. This was very contentious, and our policy now unfortunately includes a commitment that opt-outs from equality and discrimination laws by religious organisations will not be allowed. This has the somewhat ludicrous implication that religious groups will not be able to discriminate on the grounds of religion – so, for example, a mosque would not be able to require their imam to be a Muslim.

We then moved on to emergency motions, backing a campaign to keep Royal Mail public, dealing with the issue of feed-in tarrifs which discriminate against renewables, and condemning a repeated TV broadcast in Greece which was, basically, advocating rape. We threw out a motion about meat-free Mondays on procedural grounds (the wording meant that it was not valid as an emergency motion), and passed a motion condemning Metgate.

There was nothing that jumped out and said “go to me” out of the next bunch of sessions, so I had some lunch, and ended up chatting to some of the Young Greens. I followed lunch with a session on the economy of economics, where the speaker was outlining his views on how economics developed, and why current economics is at odds with preserving the environment. In the end, he concluded that the fundamental problem was the concept of ownership, and that we needed to stop thinking conceptually and start thinking instinctively instead. I was less than convinced, but may try to think through his ideas (possibly in a future blog post).

Following this, we had a plenary session on organisational and other motions. There were a couple of fairly trivial organisational motions. We then voted that, although we want to see proportional representation, we will back the yes to AV campaign if the coming referendum is a straight choice between First Past the Post and AV. We referred a motion to create a Green Party Shadow Cabinet back to the proposers, to enable further consultation about what would be a radical change to the way we do things, and then ran out of time.

Following this, I went to two consecutive meetings about election strategy. One was three councillors sharing their stories of how they got elected, and answering questions. The other was the second half of feeding back what worked and didn’t from Brighton Pavilion. As a result, I now have a complete collection of Caroline Lucas’s campaign leaflets (or, rather, of the ones where they had any left over).

We then went in to the third plenary of the day, dealing with policy again. We passed a motion that asked the policy committee to look again at our agriculture policy, which is rather out of date, passed a couple of amendments to our education policy, whilst throwing out a couple of other parts of that proposal, passed a motion protecting private tenants, and another to impose a container charge on imported containers that go by road (except to destinations close to the port) rather than by rail, as a mechanism to encourage our policy of moving goods by rail or canal rather than by road. It was pointed out that, at the moment, the taxation on such containers vastly favours those going by road.

After this, I went to a session on the opportunities and problems that come with a growing party membership. And then went to a discussion about how the party can better engage with faith groups, which I really enjoyed. It’s certainly something we need to improve as a party, and this session came up with a few ideas. It also gave me the chance to meet a few other Christians (albeit all of very different theological persuasions to myself) within the party. Anyway, hello to anybody who’s reading this because I mentioned my blog in that session.

I ended the day having a great chat over a drink with somebody else from the regional party who was at the final session, before heading home. Anyway, it was a more relaxed day, despite also being more eventful, and I’m still really enjoying conference. I also have a lot of stuff I need to process and apply to my local party as a result of the conference, and I’ve still got the final day to go.

One Comment

  1. Posted September 14, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Stephen, You mentioned that our new policy says that religious organisations should not be able to break laws against discrimination because “for example, a mosque would not be able to require their imam to be a Muslim.”

    Speaking as a humanist I have to agree that that would be absurd yet it cannot be right to allow, for instance, a church to take over a state school and then, whilst taking tax money to run it, refuse to employ humanists or lesbians or the disabled.

    So I think that (1) ALL organisations that take tax money to run services should be subject to all anti-discrimination laws.

    How about your imam? (2) If the mosque is privately funded then it should be free to discriminate against non-Muslims in access and employment. But (3) this shouldn’t be specific to religion (which is important to only a small minority of us). The Green Party, for instance, should be free to require its employees to support green policies.

    So far I’ve considered beliefs (which we choose) but the hard issues concern the things we don’t choose – like gender, disability and sexual orientation. Anti-discrimination law rightly affects companies and bodies of all kinds.

    I appreciate that some religious people and organisations hold strong views in favour of discrimination against, for instance, gays and women. The Catholic Church, for instance, won’t ordain women. That’s clearly discrimination. I just don’t see why we should regard that as acceptable.

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