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Green Party Political Conference

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 at 12:06 am Written by:

Over a week ago I spent 3 days down in Reading at the Green Party spring conference. Never been to a party conference before. I went as an observer trying to push my vote quiz idea,[1] and getting the usual “too busy” answer from most people. When the seagrass server started working again, I tested it on a few people. No one clicked on the links, sadly.

I had printed out my political widget on a piece of paper,[2] and was glad to see that everyone got it. The need to nominate two specific votes could provide the push for getting people to look more deeply at divisions and to ask questions. The no2id stand also understood the potential. As usual, people are short on encouragement; and simply think about themselves and how much work it’ll take for them to make it functional, rather than acknowledging how far I have had to bring it to get it here.

The plenary sessions of the Green Party were very structured, running through a tight schedule of motions almost Parliamentary democracy style (but without the whipping) where everything was subject to a general vote. Attendees were given a 60 page document containing amendments to the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society,[3] Deleting and replacing numbered paragraphs from this constituted the majority of business.

In spite of this, there were no actual copies of the manifesto document that was being amended floating around. I found this really peculiar. Usually the excuse was it was the size of a telephone book. The MfSS appears to be a unique feature of the Green Party in that they work with a continually updated and very detailed manifesto which has evolved over the decades. We’re used to the other parties simply throwing a few pages together a week before the election where it contains as much content and BS as a corporate annual report, but without the accounts.

There were workshop meetings about these amendments which I didn’t go to. Everything else is a “fringe” meeting. A couple were easy to remember. I watched a talk on how to write a press release, by their new press officer — he’s just moved down from being a press officer at the Scottish Parliament. There were some interesting lessons.

There was a talk about designing local websites. The speaker gave a general whinge about how all of them are broken/out of date! Go and click on the links on this page.[4] I raised the point that it only takes one lowly member of the party to appoint themselves as quality control and go through them all once a month (it would take about an evening) and start prodding the local groups, which would do them a favour; but no one followed it. So much for self-directed work.

Most members were beardies with cardigans, but there were a handful of young men in suits who seemed to be taking control of things. Things are gearing up to get Caroline Lucas into Parliament in Brighton.

It was one of them (Cath) whom I knobbled to try and talk about all things mySociety related. During Lucas’s presentation she mentioned about the systematic lobby corruption in the EU Parliament, and how the Green Group was intending to hire someone to match all the proposers of amendments according to MEPs and their interests to document how the changes are being siphoned in by the corporations. Clearly this is a job for one of our computer systems, so I was inquiring further. My points were not obvious.

The EU parliament webpages are still a disaster area for me. Cath said the place that some of the structure can be found is at the Legislative Observatory.[5]

I’m still not convinced. On Saturday afternoon Lucas launched her new website,[6] and I missed the wine and chocolate because I was still gabbing to the no2id guys. I’d been looking at it all day to change, but it already had done. Apparently there are links through to the EU parl happenings of what she does, but still pretty impenetrable. There are official MEP pages with some stuff.[7] Someone else can decide in what way these are deficient compared to the theyworkforyou MP pages.

One obvious thing springs to mind is the fact that committee memberships in the EU are crucial for who is doing what. If these committee positions were scraped from these membership pages and presented on the writetothem list of your 10 MEPs, then you would know exactly which one to write to about any particular issue.

[2] wpblog/introducing-a-political-widget/

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