Wales Green Party prepares for Assembly breakthrough at AGM
Attending this year’s Wales Green Party AGM in Cardiff last Saturday, it was clear that while this year the focus of the Wales Green Party has been on becoming a viable political force in Welsh politics, next year sees a real chance for the party to gain an elected Assembly Member. Such a breakthrough that would make a massive difference the party’s impact on Welsh politics as well as increasing our media coverage. It could also set the party on the path to becoming its own entity separate from the English Greens, similar to the way in which the Scottish Greens have successfully operated for the past 25 years.
The AGM was Pippa Bartolotti’s last in her role as Wales Green Party Leader, as she has reached her constitutional term limit. Pippa gave one of her trademark rousing speeches urging members to fight against climate change even on the beaches a la Churchill. She reflected on the party’s journey, which has seen its profile raised, as she gained a spot on the Welsh party leaders debate during the general election campaign. This victory for the party will surely see her successor earn a spot on debates ahead of the assembly elections next year. The party thanked Bartolotti for her service with her speech prompting a standing ovation.
After Bartotti’s opening speech the AGM then turned to the future, with a hustings for the leader and deputy leadership of the party. All the candidates have shown potential in various ways so it was useful to provide room for members to hear from them. The leadership race favourite Anthony Slaughter, deputy leader, had experience on his side, arguing how the skills from his current position could enable him to make strong arguments as leader. Young Green Ashley Wakeling from Swansea, the youngest candidate for leader, gave confident, considered answers. He was the candidate for Swansea West in this May’s Westminster elections, where he was one of the few Welsh Greens to keep his deposit. The final contender for leader is Alice Hooker-Stroud from Machynlleth, the only candidate to offer bilingual responses in Welsh and English, although her hustings appearance via Skype was unfortunately cut short due to technical difficulties. Despite these problems Hooker-Stroud presents an intriguing prospect for the leadership as a Welsh speaker, a lead list candidate in Mid & West Wales, thus having the potential to draw the leadership out of the south into the heart of the country.
With both Hooker-Stroud and Wakeling running for both deputy and leader positions, Hannah Pudner managed to carve a specific profile for the deputy leadership giving a convincing performance in the hustings. A personal highlight was Pudner’s description of the Welsh Bill: ‘I would say it’s a dog’s dinner but I feed my dog better’ showing her fierce dedication to the devolution of powers to the Senedd. In the debate all candidates also demonstrated a commitment to campaign to stay in the EU, but admitted that the EU needs reform to be more progressive. The also wanted to seek more devolution for Wales and through the election carve a green voice committed to a more sustainable future for the country.
Following this was a speech from Ecologist writer and Green party member Herbert Giradet who reflected on the party’s roots to the present and the various challenges within rural policy leading to debate amongst members about approach to forestry.
The AGM was also introduced to the lead list candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections. With the North Wales list candidate still to be decided, Pippa Bartolotti (leading the South Wales East list) and Alice Hooker-Stroud were joined by Lisa Rapado—a campaigner for people with Autism—leading the South West Wales list and Green Party of England & Wales Deputy Leader Amelia Womack who is running for South Wales Central as well as Cardiff Central. Rapado made an incredibly passionate bilingual speech outline her vision for the campaign focussing on a grassroots approach promising to meet people face to face. Amelia Womack shared the story of her journey to her position in the party and encouraged others to follow suit. For Womack her candidacy is a homecoming, having grown up in Newport, and having spent much time in Cardiff. Womack has already caused a stir with her candidacy attracting media attention, including an appearance on popular Welsh political magazine programme the Sharp End on ITV, holding her own against experienced Assembly Members Mary Helen Jones (Plaid Cymru) and Nick Ramsay (Conservative) and Labour Peer Eluned Morgan. Her invitation onto the show was already a signal that the Greens are considered by the media to be serious contenders for Assembly seats.
The Green Party’s other deputy leader Shahrar Ali also addressed the AGM, giving a strong speech condemning intolerance and policies that target minorities, including stop and search. Ali addressed questions about party diversity and encouraged the Wales Greens to reach to all communities to invite them into the party. He particularly urged the party to make links with faith communities who often share the Green Party’s values on ecology and preservation.
After the unveiling of a new Wales Green Party committee the AGM adjourned and whilst other members enjoyed a drink and chat, the Young Greens present met to explore a roadmap to regional Young Greens status. Following a commitment by the Young Greens Regional Senate Co-chairs at Young Greens Convention to see Welsh seats at the table, the group met to begin the process which will hopefully see the group established before the Assembly elections. The group were addressed by Amelia Womack who encouraged involvement at all levels of the party for Young Greens telling them that ‘no one generation has a monopoly on knowledge’. Although small in attendance, the growth of a Young Greens presence in Wales could be vital to the future of the party, leaving the Wales Green Party facing to the future.