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Green Party Conference Liverpool

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 at 11:55 am Written by:

The Green Party Spring Conference was held in St Georges Hall at the weekend. I didn’t take any photos except for this one of Jean Lambert MEP.

International governance is a serious issue with major consequences. It doesn’t help that the British public enjoy electing clowns from UKIP and the BNP to these positions where they don’t even pretend to do any work. Politics is not a sports show, like the football league. This stuff matters. And it is logical.

This morning there were two politicians debating on the radio news program: LibDem MP Martin Horwood and UKIP Leader Nigel Farage squabbling about immigration, and tripping over themselves to praise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty being secretly negotiated between the EU and the US. Horwood asserted, without any evidence, that this deal would “eventually help to create millions of British jobs”, while Farage said that if we were out of Europe we could sign this deal much faster than allowing Europe to do it.

Farage argues for Britain to get out of Europe on the basis that it gives us greater national sovereignty and control over our own laws — something which is flatly undermined by these trade deals whose sole purpose is to establish the supremacy of corporate rights over people’s rights, and where there will be no Parliament to over-see its operation.

The primary purpose of the Green Party Conference is to set the party’s policies by membership votes on amendments to its comprehensive manifesto. This is what politics is supposed to be about; party policies are not meant to made up on the hoof by the party leadership who have the power to completely sell-out their membership and lie about it.

In one of the sessions we voted by a show of hands on the motion C01:

(To be inserted into ROPS) The Green Party of England and Wales believes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which aims at removing the regulatory differences between the US and the EU, is an assault on democracy. It would likely lead to the weakening of EU social and environmental legislation and ensure that new European legislation does not stand in the way of corporate interests. The Green Party will campaign against this agreement in order to protect legislation in areas such as environmental protection, workers’ rights, health (including the NHS) and animal-welfare and will make this issue a central part of its forthcoming European Parliament Election Campaign.

The core objection to these trade deals is that they promote the free movement of capital, money, and products around the globe, but restrict the movement and rights of people. The rights and free movement of people is the core premise of Europe. These include the right not to be sold products that are poisonous and whose manufacture is harmful to our long term survival. And the right to work wherever we can gain employment, rather than being entrapped within national boundaries begging the corporations to site their factories in a places were we can legally work for the lowest possible wage. This vision is currently being undermined by greed, ignorance and stupidity.

Later, on Sunday, while I was wasting time in the main hall on an FOI request for secret council documents relating to a waste incinerator in Gloucestershire, the word came down from the plenary session that there was a very close vote which had gone to a card ballot. I ran upstairs as it was something I cared about.

Motion D04: The Green Party calls on our leader, deputy leader, MP and MEPs to use public appearances, particularly crucial national television and radio appearances, to point out, when and if they are provided the opportunity, the futility of chasing economic growth in Britain and the positive benefits on wellbeing and quality of life of reducing consumption.

Clearly, it’s a arithmetic truism that economic growth cannot carry on exponentially in the long term, and at some point we will have to either crash or enter a steady state. Everyone knows this. It’s the same with anything exponential, such as property prices — these couldn’t carry on doubling every 2 years for very long. And if the entire financial and economic system fundamentally depends on prices and consumption increasing exponentially forever, then we’re in for chaos and catastrophe when it predictably stops. So why don’t we stop denying this arithmetic fact, and start thinking about how life would be if we kept the same speed or even contracted slightly for a sustained period, instead of careering straight off the rails on the next bend? We might even learn to like it if the economy was redesigned for it.

I missed the debate, but it was evident that a lot of people had been swayed by the counter-argument that we shouldn’t openly challenge economic-political orthodoxy no matter how ridiculous because it makes us look stupid. The final paper vote was something like 108 to 105 for the motion, so I was glad I made a difference. But it was close, which means it’s not a very strong mandate, I guess.

Not up for debate this time was the policy on Nuclear Power, which a lot of people believe makes the Green Party not serious.

Here are the relevant policies.

EN105 The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to nuclear energy, which we consider to be expensive and dangerous. The technology is not carbon neutral, and being reliant on uranium it is not renewable. We consider its use, moreover, to be elitist and undemocratic. There is so far no safe way of disposing of nuclear waste. To a degree unequalled by even the worst of other dangerous industries, the costs and dangers of nuclear energy and its waste will be passed on to future generations long after any benefits have been exhausted.

EN600 A deadline for phasing out nuclear power would be set when we come to office and all UK nuclear power plants phased out within this date.

EN603 The unpredictable effects of climate change demand that the safety of UK nuclear power stations and other sites handling and processing radioactive materials require urgent review. Many nuclear plants are in vulnerable coastal locations which face flooding by a combination of severe weather, rising sea levels and spring tides. An action plan to protect these sites would be implemented and the most vulnerable nuclear sites would be closed down and decommissioned at the earliest practicable date.

EN605 It appears unlikely that research into nuclear fusion will bear fruit in the timescales needed to address Climate Change and Peak Oil, so in the short to medium term all research funding will be redirected for more immediate benefit.

The funny thing is that EN600 is the exactly the policy of Germany, with the date set at 2022. EN603 doesn’t look quite so unlikely after this winter’s major flooding events. And EN605 continues to hold true. Who are the unrealistic dreamers? I imagine that in spite of these issues EN105 would still be a close vote for pragmatic reasons. Maybe a lot of people still believe in the technology.

It’s not so important.

What is important is that any policy such as this is subject to affirmative change by the membership. It would take a few months to draft an amendment, bring it to conference, and then there would be a vote on it. It would be a good vote; we are not as stupid as most of our political leaders act as though they are. Isn’t this what democracy is supposed to be about?

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