Monday, September 25, 2006

Subverting the economic paradigm

Having slightly recovered from conference I'll try to round it up and cover some of the issues I've missed.

On the whole it's been an enjoyable and instructive experience. Whilst a couple of the debates could have been conducted in far more fraternal manner it's actually a good sign that there is a bit of argie bargy and vociferous discussion. A party that agrees and has consistent consensus year on end would be one that's ideologically dead.

The fact that debate was carried out in a less ideological, more thoughtful way was really useful and helped generate a more creative debate. For instance, during the education debate someone got up and went through the reasons why people choose to go down the city academy route. He didn't waste much of his time putting in loads of caveats around why he opposed them, although he clearly did, but he thought it would be useful to those present to hear the arguments as they are actually put. In a hard left meeting it's often difficult to do this sort of thing without a number of "robust interventions" designed to "come back" on the speaker with the clear implication that just by understanding and stating the opposition's arguments you somehow agree with them.

It was also very useful to meet other bloggers there, like new Female Principle Speaker Sian Berry (who was victim of a rather sexist, if well intentioned article in the Independent), Natalie Bennett (whose brain is so enormous it pulls small planets into its orbit), Peter Sanderson (who, as I suspected, was a thoroughly like-able chap), Derek Wall (whose voice gave way at the beginning of conference), and Matthew "silver tongue" Sellwood (who alone out of this list has yet to give his report of conference - well worth reading the other perspectives). I'm sure there were other bloggers there, and if you've reported on conference feel free to link to it from my comments box - I'd be interested to see what you thought.

Some the debates I've not covered and really should include were for a total smoking ban (which some of you will be surprised to hear I abstained on due to a long and very interesting discussion with Jessica Goldfinch from Norwich who was totally opposed), for stronger policy on taxing high earners (strengthening an already held commitment to progressive taxation), a great discussion on repealing the anti-trade union laws which passed with around six delegates against (which shows just how big the right of the party really is), although we didn't get to the motion proposing the abolition of MI5. I'll discuss prostitution when I've more time to do it justice I think.

In terms of tendencies at conference there is obviously the rambunctious grouping I've mentioned. There's also the media savvies, there's a layer of people who seem to have come because they passionately believe in a particular policy and want to get it discussed and passed, there's also those who came to see the old friends who come every year and there's also the constitutionalists. At the beginning of conference I think I made the mistake of merging the obstreporous grouping with the constitutionalists in that both seemed more concerned about the debate on the controversial motions taking place at all rather than discussing the issues.

There are people like John Norris (who has a very quiet voice, high trousers and frequently wears a hat) who I unfairly thought were wreckers and now, having spoken to him, I realise that pedantry is his first love rather than ego and he is actually a rather pleasant chap. Obviously he still belongs to a tendency I'm not so keen on, but I think it's only fair to acknowledge that he, and a couple of others did behave appropriately during the debates and I must ensure I remember to differentiate between those who took a view I didn't agree with and those who choose to express those views in a totally inappropriate way, which in the end turns out to be a tiny handful of people - the kind most organisations can find themselves blighted with.

On diversity there are two issues really. First the ethnic mix of the Green Party is predominantly white and this needs some thought as to why that is. Secondly although women are very well represented in the party and in conference - far better than most (if not all) other parties in fact - there was a massive disparity when it came to women standing for position. The new national executive (GPEx) is an overwhelmingly male body, and this is quite unrepresentative of the party as a whole. Interestingly when speakers mentioned this and talked about encouraging women to stand (a few people mentioned the idea of quotas too) quite a few women seemed totally opposed even to the idea of encouragement - I think on the basis that they felt it would be patronising. What ever the solution it certainly is a problem that we should try to address, but perhaps the first step is to ask women why they don't want to stand for these positions. There's lots of theories, which may or may not be sound, but until we do some research they are just that.

It maybe that some of the difficulties are insurmountable, but if there are barriers to women standing for positions, or just cultural attitudes that it more difficult then we really should know about it and set about making the executive as diverse as the membership.

PS My email backlog is getting ridiculous - so apologies if I haven't replied to something urgent - hopefully I'll get round to it!


Peter said...


That's a fairly good summary of things. It was good to chat to you briefly and put a face to a blog.

It's a shame that GPEX is so male-dominated - but then our leading elected representatives have a heavy female dominance. Both MEPs, one London Assembly member, and our House of Lords nominee are female. Jim Killock made the good point that perhaps if GPEX were paid, then more women (who tend to have more commitments than men) might be able to get involved. That's a long long way off though.

AN said...


If the Greens support a toral smoking ban that is the last time I vote for them

AN said...

toral = total

Jim Jay said...

Well, total smoking ban is an exageration really. The motion brought existing policy upto date (it called for some things that are already in I think) and adds this sentance (there is more but I'm sure no one wants the whole thing)

"the Green Party supports legislation prohibiting smoking in all enclosed premises to which the public has access" because it kills people basically.

As I mentioned I actually abstained on this after hearing the arguments but it was carried, yes.

scott redding said...

what seemed patronising at conference was this idea of men saying they were "disappointed" at more women not standing ... tut tut, finger point, we're so disappointed in you, must try harder women! not really the way to encourage more people to stand. in the chairing of fringe meetings and plenaries, it was only the women chairs who said, "i'll take the next question/comment from a woman," and that should be more widespread when men chair meetings.

you can find a few of my musings on conference here.

Matt Sellwood said...

>>in the chairing of fringe meetings and plenaries, it was only the women chairs who said, "i'll take the next question/comment from a woman>>

With the greatest of respect, that isn't true. Both Adrian Ramsay and I (and possibly others, though I didn't see them so can't say) did this.


scott redding said...

i don't remember adrian doing it, but i'll rely on you that he did. and i apologise if you were. but i don't think it generally happens with male chairs, and i think it should. i even heard male heckling at a sunday plenary when a woman chair was asking for the next question to come from a woman.