Monday, February 18, 2008

How was it for you?

Personally I thought this conference was one of the best in a while, not least because it seemed to be more harmonious than recent ones, but also I thought the venue was good and easy to get to, there were some interesting and inspiring speakers and useful training sessions. I thought Rob Smith from conferences committee, along with Leila and John who do the bulk of the organisation, did an excellent job.

One thing I didn't add in my previous post is that as of yesterday I am on Conference Committee. I thought perhaps people might like to use this post to say what they liked/didn't like about this conference, what they would like to see at future conference, suggestions of future venues etc. Polite, constructive and realistic suggestions welcomed!

Saturday - elections, elections, elections, blogs and climate change

Meant to post this up yesterday, but didn't quite manage it. Saturday saw loads of elections-related stuff and training for local parties. My day kicked off with a breakfast meeting for our target constituencies - Brighton Pavilion, Lewisham Deptford and Norwich South. I also attended the session on our election strategy, which was positive, but funnily enough I'm not about to report it in great detail here.

At lunchtime there was a big panel session chaired by Derek Wall with our candidates for our top 3 parliamentary constituencies (Caroline Lucas MEP for Brighton Pavilion, Darren Johnson AM for Lewisham Deptford and Cllr Adrian Ramsay for Norwich South). Each candidate spoke passionately about what they had already achieved as a councillor/London Assembly member/MEP and why it is so important to get a Green MP at the next general election. It was a great session and there was a real feeling of the time is now, this is our opportunity to make a breakthrough and elect our first Green MP in Brighton Pavilion.

Obviously I hope we also elect Green MPs in Lewisham Deptford and Norwich South, but Brighton Pavilion is our best chance and I would urge all Green Party members and supporters who can get there to go and help out in the campaign as often as possible between now and the next general election. This was also the message from Adrian and Darren - come and help us in Lewisham Deptford and Norwich South if you can (we're running strong campaigns and expect to do very well), but first and foremost, go to Brighton. A few hundred extra votes or a saved deposit in your own constituency won't have anywhere near as much of an impact as a Green MP in Westminster will do.

To get involved in the campaign to elect Caroline in Brighton Pavilion, call Amy Kennedy on 01273 782 235 or e-mail , to help in Lewisham Deptford e-mail me or call on 020 8690 0658 and for Norwich contact Tom Dillon on 01603 611909.

Anyway, end of pitch and back to conference. On Saturday afternoon we had a meeting of various Green bloggers about setting up a Green equivalent to ConservativeHome/Labour Home/Lib Dem Voice. In short, it's happening, coming soon to a computer near you.

In the evening, alongside spending a fair amount of time in the bar, I went along to George Marshall's “stand-up climate change comedy”. George works for COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network) and has recently written Carbon Detox. The main thrust of his presentation was that it's no good preaching to people about doing your bit to stop climate change, save the planet, look after the environment etc, as that just alienates lots of people. Images of polar bears, though lovely, don’t relate to people’s everyday lives.

He compared climate change deniers to the pro-smoking lobby (well, some of them are one and the same people being paid to sell a line, as George Monbiot points out here). He also wasn't a big fan of lists, top ten tips to save the planet etc, arguing that if you have ten tips to save the planet and one of them is to stop using plastic bags whereas another is to give up flying, most people will choose the former, when in fact plastic bags have a tiny tiny impact on your carbon footprint and you would probably save far more carbon by giving up flying than not using plastic bags and half a dozen other similar things (there are, of course, many other good, environmental reasons why you should give up using plastic bags, climate change aside).

For me, his talk seemed to folllow on quite nicely from a recent article in Green World magazine about what motivates people. Only about 20% of the population are motivated by 'doing the right thing' (George Marshall calls these people 'strivers' in his book), most of the population needs to have a more selfish or fashion-related reason to change their lifestyle. He showed us a picture of a Victorian living room cluttered with knick knacks, followed by the simplicity of a 1930s art deco room. No one in the 1930s was complaining about giving up the knick-knacks, they just went out of fashion and seemed unnecessary by the 1930s. The challenge is to convince people that the carbon-intensive aspects of our current lives are not essential and to change habits and trends. The Green Party has long led on policies on climate change, but could we be trendsetters and persuade everyone that it is the fashionable thing to do? Looking around the hall at the wonderfully eclectic variety of outfits from neo-Green suits to multi-coloured hand-knitted scarfs and psychedelic waistcoats (ok, sorry Rupert, your waistcoats aren't really psychedelic!), I wasn't quite sure . . .

Anyway, George Marshall's routine was followed by a fund-raising auction for the London Elections Campaign and the traditional Green Party Revue. I tend to be highly critical of the revue, but not actually willing to contribute anything myself, which isn't quite the spirit I know. This conference I thought that while in places as always it was painful to watch, there were also moments that had the hall in stitches. My personal favourite this year was the (also now traditional) Green variation on Monty Python's 'Three Yorkshiremen Sketch' featuring Matt Ledbury, Richard Scrase and Ben Duncan - did anyone record that?

Anyway, that was my Saturday at conference.