4 things we learnt from Wales Green Party conference
You’d be forgiven for thinking that conference season was over weeks ago, such is the media’s lack of interest in the goings on in the UK’s smaller parties and those in the devolved nations. Nevertheless, dozens of Wales Green Party activists congregated in the coldest room in Cardiff this past weekend for their autumn conference. Bright Green was in Cardiff, reporting from the conference floor. Here’s four things we learnt.
1. The Greens are serious about getting a seat in the Senedd
Earlier this year, the Green Party of England and Wales members descended on Brighton for their autumn conference. At that event, it became clear that the Greens are pivoting away from ramping up electoral success in local elections towards securing more representation in Westminster. The party’s big ambition is to win four parliamentary seats at the next general election.
Meanwhile, in Wales, the Greens also have their eyes on parliamentary representation. It isn’t Westminster they’re aiming for though. It’s Cardiff – the last parliamentary body in the UK that has never had Greens in it.
The Wales Green Party leader Anthony Slaughter used his keynote speech at the conference to outline his ambition to make an “historic breakthrough” at the next Senedd elections, set to take place in 2026. He was met with huge applause from attendees when he said: “We can do this, and we are going to do this”.
Saying this in a speech to the party faithful is one thing. Making it happen is another. What will make the next Senedd campaign different from previous ones?
As Sam Coates, the Wales Green Party’s communications officer, told the conference, getting a seat in the Senedd has previously been a “really tough hill to climb”. In 2026, though, things will be changing in the Greens’ favour.
Presently, there are 60 members of the Senedd, 40 of whom are elected by first past the post. The remaining 20 are elected in five regions of Wales on a proportional system.
Proposals from the Welsh Government would see the 2026 Senedd election elected wholly proportionally, with the number of seats increasing too. The plan is for there to be 96 Senedd members representing 16 constituencies. These constituencies would comprise two Westminster parliamentary seats and each elect six people to the Senedd. This means the threshold for getting a first Green elected to the parliament is much lower than it has been previously.
A lower hurdle is no doubt important. But it’s even more important to get the resources in place to fight a campaign. This is now underway. The Wales Green Party is already actively campaigning in the areas they’re hoping to break through – two and a half years before voters go to the polls. They are working on developing the messaging they hope will assist in convincing people to vote Green and building up the volunteer base to take the Green message to the electorate.
This doesn’t guarantee a Green in the Senedd in 2026, but it does show that the Greens are really serious about doing everything they can to make it happen.
2. Wales Green Party is insulated from the row over trans rights
The rule is that members of political parties typically fall out at some point during their conference. Sticking hundreds of political activists in a room together is always likely to spark some level of disagreement. Rows over policy or process are commonplace, sometimes spilling into open hostility between party members or factions.
In recent years the Green Party of England and Wales has been plagued with division at its conferences. Most notably, a small group of very vocal members hell-bent on overturning the party’s policies supportive of LGBTIQA+ rights have sought to dominate conferences with their pet issue.
While this has begun to abate as members increasingly see the issue as settled, it has nevertheless absorbed huge amounts of time at party conferences and sapped activist energy, with other factional disputes often end up rippling into reports and the debates on them.
Wales Green Party, it seems, has managed to insulate itself from this. On Saturday morning, members agreed the report of the Standing Orders Committee without a single comment, question or speech against – a feat unheard of at Green Party of England and Wales conference. Reports were passed without endless amendments or quibbling.
I said to a group of members attending that this was the first conference I’d ever been to where everyone seemed to get along. In response, they acknowledged with exasperation what they described as ‘Mumsnet’ motions submitted to Green Party of England and Wales conferences, and were grateful that this genre of politics hadn’t infected Wales Green Party conferences in the same way.
This is important for two reasons. First, it is a useful indicator of where Wales Green Party stands on the culture war the UK is enduring on trans rights – firmly in support of human rights and equality. Second, it is a reminder that the small band of fringe anti-trans fanatics within the Green Party of England and Wales are just that – a small, irrelevant fringe.
Tellingly, while Wales Green Party were getting along and not wasting their time rehashing long settled debates, many miles away members of the Eastern Green Party in England overwhelmingly rejected a motion which called for the Greens to attend their participation in the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme.
3. There is a quiet discontent about the Green Party of England and Wales
Speaking of the Green Party of England and Wales… it became clear fairly early on at Wales Green Party conference that there is a degree of discontent about the approach of the wider party they are a part of towards Wales. From the conference platform and in conversations over lunch and in the pub, there is more than a small sense of frustration that the England-dominated party simply doesn’t quite ‘get’ Wales.
Grumblings from members suggest a frustration about a lack of understanding of policy in devolved areas and how it does or does not apply to Wales, along with a perceived failure to support the provision of bilingual campaign materials.
There is widespread disappointment that the Green Party Executive has failed to implement a motion passed by conference to remunerate the Wales Green Party leader, leaving the post still voluntary.
These gripes are indicative of a wider mood within the Wales Green Party – a mood which will likely soon lead to a separation. Presently, Wales Green Party is a semi-autonomous constituent part of the Green Party of England and Wales, but the Wales Green Party Council is in the process of assessing what becoming an independent party would look like following an extraordinary general meeting earlier this year.
This direction of travel is partially driven by the fact that the Wales Green Party now favours Welsh independence, and becoming an independent party is a logical extension of this. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the sense of Anglocentricity is also a contributing factor.
There’s a little bit of déjà vu here. Five years ago, Wales Green Party members were balloted on whether to go it alone. Then, two thirds of members voted against the proposal. However, there is a growing sense that the mood has shifted sufficiently that a majority of members would now vote the other way. Indeed, party leader Anthony Slaughter has called separation ‘inevitable’ and ‘desirable’, saying there is ‘no logic’ to not becoming independent, given the party’s stance on the constitutional question.
4. There is a need to build capacity within the party
Green Party events aren’t known for being packed to the rafters. But the Wales Green Party conference was a noticeably small affair. This alone could suggest a lack of capacity, but party conferences don’t win elections. There is no contradiction in a party not having masses of people flock to discuss policy motions and AGM reports but that still has an army of foot soldiers who will deliver leaflets, knock on doors or put in the hard graft of volunteer mobilisation.
Unfortunately it wasn’t just low attendance at the conference that causes concerns about capacity. The chair of the AGM session hearing reports from party office holders must have got tired of repeating that particular posts were unfilled or the postholder had tendered a resignation mid-way through their term. Likewise, the hustings for new officers wasn’t the most electrifying moment of the event, given that every post had only one candidate, or no candidates at all.
This matters because the big and bold electoral ambitions Wales Green Party has will need capacity and resource. To make them a reality, people are needed to campaign, people are needed to sort out messaging and strategy, and people are needed to keep the internal organisation ticking over. Without that, all the will in the world won’t make those ambitions of breaking through in the Senedd, of getting councillors elected in every Welsh council, and obtaining the highest vote share in the next general election may well remain elusive.
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