Conference Preview and Highlights
This will be the third Green Party of England and Wales conference I’ve covered for Bright Green, and (I think) the sixth I’ll have attended. It already looks like it might be one of the best (and not just because it showcases both our re-launch and our first live event). So here are a few of the events to which I’m most looking forward.
OK so I said it wasn’t just about us having our own fringe, but I really do think it’s going to be a good one. Where we see ourselves within the anti-cuts movement and how we can best oppose the extreme right-wing policies currently being imposed on the UK really are the most important questions we face today. I think we’ve got a great panel of speakers to debate our answers to those questions, and we’ll hopefully be providing some form of refreshments too.
The Young Greens have had a great year so far, increasing their membership by 40% in just two months!. This conference they’ll be hosting two sessions: one debating our internal structure that might be more for insiders and a second on “Culling the Cuts Doctrine”, which, I believe, will focus more on practical action to oppose cuts, where our own fringe might take a rather broader view. Both the YG fringe the the BG one should be good, and hopefully they’ll complement each other, there’s certainly a lot to discuss.
Science Policy Paper
In policy terms the big news at this conference is the review of the science and technology section of the PSS (Policies for a Sustainable Society – the party’s democratically decided policy document). We’ve faced criticism in the past for some of policies that have appeared ‘anti-science’, I think we’ve come a long way in the last year or two though, and I’m confident that come May we’ll have a set of policies which will not only stand up to external scrutiny but actually attack us a lot of votes.
Last spring conference we fixed our health policy to remove support for homoeopathy and to back evidence supported treatments (and defend a publicly funded and publicly provided NHS). This year we’ll hopefully back higher public funding for science and technology R&D, protecting jobs in universities and undercutting corporate control at the same time. We’ll ensure funding is long-term and that there is money both to build facilities and to run them, so we don’t see the ridiculous situation we’ve faced recently where newly completed projects are threatened before they’ve even been used. We’ll support open access research and freedom of information making science more accessible and available to everyone. We’ll support the Haldane principle that government can set strategic priorities but shouldn’t try to micro-manage which individual projects to fund and back complete independence for scientific advice; government needs good quality advice from scientists and academics always need to be free to speak their minds without fear of reprisal.
This conference is where our science policy goes from being something many of us try to avoid talking about and becomes something that attracts votes from the thousands of people across the country disappointed and angry at the Lib Dem, Labour and Tory attacks on education and scientific advice.
Fellow Green blogger Jim Jepps is also running a session at conference, though rather more prestigious than our own. He has his own panel session on “The Economic situation in the UK” on Sunday afternoon. Conference programme doesn’t say if anyone else is on that panel so maybe it’s just Jim lecturing us for an hour and a half on economics, I certainly hope so.
Neal Lawson, John Harris and Richard Grayson
And on those still around on Monday we have what, for me, looks like the possibly the best session of conference. Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, John Harris, of the Guardian, and Professor Richard Grayson, head of the politics department at Goldsmiths, former Director of Policy of the Liberal Democrats and former Director of the Centre for Reform will be joining Rupert Read, Green Party councillor in Norwich and reader in philosophy at UEA to discuss “The Challenge of Political Plurality”. It should be fascinating.
I’m sure there are going to be lots of other great sessions throughout the weekend and of course today we have the Leaders’ speeches from Caroline and Jake. I can’t wait.