Conference Fragments: Democracy in Action
by Rustam Majainah
Those of you who remember your schooldays will probably be familiar with the concept of Model United Nations, Mock General Elections and other events, set up to try and attract young people to politics by showing them its not like BBC Parliament all the time. You go to them acting as if you’re a big shot politician or diplomat, argue for your side like the world really does depend on it and go away feeling as if you have achieved something, whether it is because you’ve persuaded the world to sign up to your directive legalising drugs, or you’ve managed to achieve 20% of the vote for the Greens in a Lib Dem stronghold (just some of my experiences of these events). However, lurking in the back of my mind was always the fact that this was just a bit of fun, and that there wasn’t much chance of me actually being able to change anything in the real world.
And then I came to Conference.
I seem to be part of the ever growing number of people in the ‘This is my first conference’ club, and I was amazed at how a regular member like myself could have such an influence over the policy we adopted. Of course, sometimes chairs of meetings can have a slight bias towards picking people they know, but they try as hard as possible to not give them any preferential treatment (which can be humorous as ‘the woman in beige’ is picked to speak and reminded to start with her name and local party, to which she replied ‘Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion’ before making her point). It is a shame that other parties leave all the policy making to those at the top of their party, and that the regular members are slaves to the big shots opinions.
And though there are large personalities who have more influence in what they say, access to those people is unparalleled in other parties. From just being in the right place at the right time, I managed to have dinner with the leader of the Welsh Green Party, get bought a drink by a Scottish MSP Patrick Harvie and talk with Caroline Lucas about electronic voting in Parliament.
This level of openness is not present in any other Westminster political party, and makes being a member of the Green Party more exciting than any of the others.