A south west regional meeting was held in Plymouth on Saturday February 24th, and all branches of the Cornwall Greens were represented. From all extremities of our area – Penzance, Looe and Bude – we came.
A number of interesting sessions and workshops were available – as well as coffee, tea and eco-tested cakes to suit all imaginable dietary restrictions. Add to that a pleasant venue in the shape of a delightful little building in a pleasant garden setting a few minutes’ walk from the railway station, a sunny day, and a civilised start time… well, the rest of you have no idea what you were missing.
Judy Maciejowska’s session outlining the progress of the current “holistic review” emphasised that the Party is in “listening mode”, and is currently holding detailed conversations with a sample of members, activists, office holders and lapsed members. It would be interesting to hear how many Cornwall Greens have been approached: the sample is small, and some delegates from other areas seemed quite affronted not to have been included. The commission has a page on the national website (which itself came in for a bit of flak during the session) at https://my.greenparty.org.uk/content/holistic-review-commission – or there is a link at the top of the home page.
Andy Pratt, of Molly Scott Cato’s office, is a well-known figure in Cornwall – as, of course, is Molly herself. Although the MEP herself was unable to attend the conference, Andy delivered a session using her latest powerpoint slides which were, as always, both trenchant and entertaining. We heard about the parallel universe into which many backbench Tories – and, to their disgrace, some ministers of the Crown – have floated: the world where negotiations about our national future have become a game of “Brexit Bulldog”: http://mollymep.org.uk/2018/02/01/bad-boys-of-brexit . And what exactly is going on at 55 Tufton Street, where an unhealthy mix of suspects occupy space http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-eurosceptics-climate-change-sceptics-55-tufton-street-westminster-a6866021.html ? Molly is doing her best to find out more. She has used her position as MEP to commission reports, covering housing, trade and agriculture. The third of these, Ploughing a Lonely Furrow, calls for the former EU agricultural support payments – which the government is pledged to maintain – to be earmarked for Green purposes. Molly is also campaigning for community and regional banks.
The morning also included sessions led by Guy Poultney of the regional office – a recent visitor to Cornwall – on issue-based campaigning (for example, capitalising on the public response to the TV programme Blue Planet), and on election strategies in “Labour-facing areas”.
The afternoon offered an informative discussion on housing policy – and in particular social housing – led by Jenny Vernon. Using post-Grenfell concerns and activism as a starting-point, the discussion soon moved on to suggestions as to how Greens might campaign for the errors of the past – notably, the consequences (intended or otherwise) of the Thatcherite “Right to Buy” initiative – to be rectified. Regulation of and a more rigorous financial squeezing of landlords were favoured solutions. But ever-increasing building didn’t strike delegates as the greenest of solutions. The scandal of homes left empty – as second homes, or merely as the contents of investment portfolios – was seen as another major wrong to be kept in the public mind. A new government green paper is in preparation, once again suggesting Tory ways and means of providing “affordable” (as it is termed) housing. Can our representatives and activists help to make that paper truly Green?
Oliver Dowding led a workshop on agricultural policy, showing how the necessarily long-term nature of agricultural planning conflicted with the increasingly short-term concerns of government. Although this occupied the last workshop session of the day, discussion remained lively. Should the Party stand four-square behind veganism, currently very much in vogue, and promote arable farming everywhere? As migrant labour migrates elsewhere, moving to more welcoming areas with stronger currencies, will land values fall – leaving the way open for more small-scale and community ownership: the return of the small-holding? Can, and if so should, land used for beef and dairy herds be converted into gently waving cornfields? Several members in Cornwall will doubtless have views…
The afternoon workshops also included Louis Williams on the use of CivMail to increase party engagement, and more from Guy – this time on election strategy, the focus of his recent visit to Cornwall, and a topic on which his words of wisdom are both incisive, welcome and above all practical. And the day ended with, of course, a plenary.
Regretting already that you didn’t attend? Feel the urge to be more closely involved? The day included a call to action – notably, for Cornwall activists, in Exeter on the following day, February 25th . And I admit that I am not there. I am at home, typing this. But how about you? Those election won’t win themselves, you know…