Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Conference Day One

There are lots of great things about political conferences, particularly for political obsessives like me. Obviously there will be crucial debates, some of which will determine the future of the party's political work. There'll be fleshing out of policy, or a greater understanding of issues and the layout of the party.

A great deal of this takes place off of conference floor and in the fringes, cafes, bars and corridors at one remove from the formal business of conference. There should be a great deal of discussion about the role of the growing number of councillors and their accountability and relationship to the party members, and it will be interesting to see if the hoo-ha over the leadership motion has settled down now the vote is all done and dusted.

The discussion document Caucus is one such contribution to that party life that makes conference so interesting. It lays out ideas from Green Party members Peter Tatchell (on the unions), Matt Selwood (on the way councillors relate to local activists) or Peter Cranie (on building the Green Party into more than a simple protest vote for an "other") as well as those outside of the Party who are also part of a progressive mileau. That includes Salma Yaqoob (on the need for alternative progressive voices), Michael Meacher (on nuclear power) and John Marais (on council housing).

Whatever's discussed on the floor it's important that events like this guard against the natural tendency to be inward looking and self obsessed. It's all too easy to do when closetted together with other party members discussing party issues to be unable to see the wood for the trees, hopefully better decision making can come with an eye on those beyond our ranks - which is why the fringe with Martin Bell looks so interesting and important.

My experiences of previous conference have not been entirely happy ones (see my thoughts on Brighton 2006 and Swansea 2007) but usually leave me with more good impressions than bad - I'm looking forward with cautious optimism that Reading will provide enough juicy meat to be of interest to readers here - whilst showing the party at its best.

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