[...] the disorientation that comes from passing through the biggest political rupture in living memory - a matter not just of the disastrous invasion, but the deceit that surrounded it - and beholding a political elite that still wants to keep the public's sustained disquiet at arm's lengthThat out of the way, Reading (I like a good city wall) and Reading Town Hall is a great venue for conference. I've fallen in love with the Main Hall (powder blue-and-white walls, with seven chandeliers and a heckuva-big pipe organ), and I can recommend the veggie korma in the cafe.
The first day of conference for me was:
- arriving late during the abortion debate (thankfully passed -- how can man after man stand up and speak against this part of the motion or that part, when the motion won't affect them, and it affects 1 in 3 women in Britain during their lifetime?);
- the fringe meeting with Martin Bell on integrity in public life (I didn't know he had been a media advisor to Reg Keys in Sedgefield in 2005);
- a panel of speakers from the Niger Delta, Palestine, and Venezuela;
- an interesting debate on concentrated solar power (should it be used for Europe's benefit -- undersea cabling -- or African development explicitly coming first) as part of the Energy Voting Paper;
- a fringe on how to encourage Young Greens into the party; and to finish off,
- Jim's fringe on "Is The Green Party Anti-Capitalist?"
I always come away from conference thinking I've been a bit too quiet, and with more questions than answers:
- On Young Greens (how do we encourage all the folks who don't go on to university, but are 22, 24, 26, into the party, if we focus on setting up university chapters?)
- On the Energy Voting Paper debate (if nigh on half of the country's local councillors are Tory, and we have the 3rd lowest level of installed renewables in the EU, how is David Cameron credible on the environment -- all his local mates are blocking renewables at the planning stage!)
- On the Greens being anti-capitalist (well, we'd say that we prefer a mixed economy, but then we talk about nationalising public transport, and since we have a more red-blooded form of capitalism in Britain -- where New Labour brings in PPP-a-go-go and even a minimum wage is trumpeted as a grand achievement -- nationalisation will be viewed as anti-capitalist by the man in the street). I always think of the Green Party as having its policies centred on ecology, on endless consumption of finite resources being the problem, as opposed to linked in the final moment to capitalism (Tories, Labour, Lib Dems) or socialism (Respect, the Socialist Party, the IWCA).