No one was in any doubt that this Autumn conference came at a difficult time for our party. Still reeling from the result of the EU referendum, we’d been dealt a one-two punch by the revival of Labour under Corbyn and the bruising experience of a snap election. Under those clouds we decamped to Harrogate apprehensive about the atmosphere that would greet us.
In spite of those circumstances, I found Conference to be a genuinely uplifting, unifying, and fortifying experience.
In the speeches delivered by Jonathan Bartley on reducing pollution in our cities to the benefit of both our health and our climate, by Amelia Womack on the Party’s call for crimes against women, motivated by gender, to be classed as a hate crime, and by Molly Scott Cato on the UK’s future outside of the EU and the need for a ratification referendum on Brexit, we were reminded of just why the Green Party’s vision is so unique and important.
We have remained committed to freedom of movement. Our record in putting climate change on the agenda is unparalleled. Our big ambitions for the economy and society are unmatched by the tepid proposals of the two leading parties. We have remained unshakeable in our stance against nuclear weapons and energy and we can be proud of our legacy of amazing women spokespeople, politicians, and leaders who are leading the charge against a patriarchal political system that has left two of the three traditional parties still without a female leader.
But it wasn’t just in the auditorium and from the mouths of our politicians that we heard inspiring stories of what Greens can achieve.
Laura Bannister from World Basic Income, and a Green Party member, described her work in promoting the idea of a basic income across, well, the world. Joe Delaney and Jennifer Nadel told us what Greens like Sian Berry, Amelia Womack and Caroline Russell have been doing on the ground to help survivors of the Grenfell disaster. From Ruth Davies, Peter Dixon, and Tim Lang we heard how vital it is that we have a Green voice in parliament standing up for the environment as Brexit is pushed through by a hard-line prime minister.
And when it came to debates, we looked at a whole number of serious issues - like the role that alliances could or should play in any future strategy, how we balance our commitments to both environmental and social justice, and how we will continue to campaign for proportional representation, the key that could unlock the Green Party’s future fortunes.
The results of this melting pot were a series of new and exciting policies that once again show how unique and important the Green Party is. That includes a commitment to create a new public holiday to mark the contribution migrants have made to Britain, a pledge to ensure that everyone lives within 500 metres of green spaces, more ambitious targets on reducing carbon emissions and recognition for the diversity of relationships in society. I’d be willing to bet you won’t see policies like these at any other party conference
So, yes, this conference came at a tough time and we had some difficult debates. But they were a reflection of a party that’s willing to have these open conversations about its priorities and how it meets the challenges of the day. I’m proud that we did so and that we will, hopefully, be all the stronger for it.