The Green Party’s 2007 Autumn Conference in Liverpool, opened by Liverpool City Councillor John Coyne, was a fairly sober affair, not least because of the seriousness of some of the issues discussed. Perhaps it was not surprising that media interest focussed on the leadership debate with the Society section of The Guardian giving a full page to the leadership referendum on the day before conference began. This featured Jenny Jones and Caroline Lucas debating different ways forward for the party. But we received coverage on other issues as well.
John Coyne was quoted in the Liverpool Daily Post under the heading, ‘Green Party speech tells Lib Dems ‘do as you say’’, and then went on, ‘The Green Party yesterday used the first day of their national conference in Liverpool to call on the Liberal Democrats to end the “disparity” between what they say at a UK-wide policy level, and do locally.”
We might be missing an opportunity in terms of local media coverage of our conference. Where delegates contacted their local media about the fact they were travelling to Liverpool they often got coverage. Charles Graham from Bridgewater is a case in point. He provoked a piece in the Bridgwater Mercury titled, ‘A happier life for all?’.
Quality of life was a recurring theme throughout the conference with discussions about the minimum wage, a vote in favour of legalising assisted suicide, and changes in the law governing the sex trade. This second issue was covered by the BBC News website, which gave a hint of the debate:
The party took the decision [in favour of legalising assisted suicide] amid warnings that it would be unpopular among voters with strong religious views. The policy sets out a framework of safeguards for individuals wishing to end their life and healthcare professionals involved in the process.
Jonathan Essex, of the Surrey Green party branch, told delegates that it could cost votes. “This will disassociate us from a large number of people that vote for us now,” he said. However, the principal speaker, Siân Berry, said the move was in line with the party’s general philosophy. “We are about practical harm reduction, not about moral absolutes,” she said. “This policy is about minimising the suffering and harm to people who are dying. It should not lose us votes, because it is the right policy to have.”
The debate examining the violence and inequality that exists towards women merits an article in its own right.* Sian Berry today chaired a panel discussion on ‘Women Left Behind’, examining the violence and inequality that exists towards women in the UK.
She was joined by Diana Nammi, from the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Yvonne Cass and Helen Todd, of the Northern Refugee Centre and REACT (Refugees Extending Awareness through Communication and Training) and Toni Cole, speaking from the Safety First! Campaign.
Diana Nammi talked with urgency and passion about the thorny and unacceptable issues of cultural relativism within the UK, namely forced marriages and ‘honour killings’ within insular Farsi and Kurdish communities. Ms Nammi brought home the message of the organisation with demands for a wholesale renewal of the British state’s attitude and policies towards dealing with both women seeking asylum from countries which advocate these institutions, and the treatment of women within the UK.
Toni Cull, from the Safety First Coalition told her harrowing story. After being raped, Ms Cull’s evidence and statement to the police was wholly rejected by the Crown Prosecution Services due to “lack of evidence”. Because it was merely “her word against his”, there was no case to be had. Ms Cull brought a private prosecution against her attacker and, after 3 years, and on the same evidence that was originally dismissed by the CPS, her attacker was sentenced to 11 years. You can read more about this debate at http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/3154
But it was our challenge to the other parties on environmental issues that caught the most TV and radio interest, perhaps best illustrated by Siân Berry’s speech on Friday. Broadcast on BBC 1 News, as well as live on News 24 and BBC Parliament, it can still be seen on the BBC’s website.
*Natalie Bennett discusses the regulation of the sex trade - Prostitution.
Our youtube channel features highlights of speeches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF0cENjSR2Y