Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Why do I know all these people?

Well the Labour conference is in full swing and as expected there is no shortage of meetings and events. There is also no shortage of disruption to life in and around the city centre, but the Manchester Evening News assures us it's great for the economy - of course they said that about the invasion of Rangers fans earlier in the year as well. But I digress. Taking advantage of all this whilst balancing family and work as well (and writing this blog) is not easy. However one thing that has struck me so far is the number of faces I recognise at said events.

Now this might be considered a good thing, but the phrase 'preaching to the converted comes to mind'. A good example is the fringe on 'A Green New Deal' held on Sunday night.' I half expected to be turned away, to make room for all the Labour MPs and delegates packing the meeting (it's supposed to be their conference after all). The meeting was full, but the regular Manchester climate change cognoscenti probably outnumbered the Labour Party. Most noticeably absent was Government Minister Yvette Cooper, who was due to speak on the platform. Whether or not she would have contributed more than the empty chair is debatable, but she could at least have been there to hear the arguments or provide a counter-argument. However, if anything, I found the lack of 'normal' Labour MPs there more dispiriting. Here is an approach to tackle the triple threat of climate change, the credit crunch and peak oil; given the events of last week it could hardly be more timely. For more information on the Green New Deal see here

Of course the Labour conference is not the only show in town this week. Running parallel to the 'official' conference is the Convention of the Left, with its own series of meetings and events, like the Edinburgh fringe which runs parallel to the main festival. Older readers will remember the days when the Labour Party was considered on the left, and no-one would have foreseen any need for a separate event.
For the reasons of balance stated above I have not been able to attend much of the convention, but people tell me it has been good-natured and positive overall, without the factional rancour which can arise. The Green Party's involvement in the Convention has been in the hands of 'Green Left' and Manchester Green Party, rather than official national involvement. On yesterday's evidence we are a little light on speakers at meetings, but seem to be regarded as good chair-people. Of the 3 meetings I have attended at the Convention, 2 were chaired by Green Party members.

One obvious question is 'Is the Green Party part of the left?'. You will get a difference of opinions amongst members. I think the answer is yes and no, but mainly yes. The 'yes' is that if by 'left' one means a real commitment to social justice and economic equity, to greater control over the corporations and financial institutions, to civil liberties and to international co-operation, then we are absolutely left. If being 'left' requires adherence to old industrial models and language and support for economic growth then we certainly are not. Any successful coalescing of left opinion which includes Greens has to be based on genuine understanding of constraints of climate change and resource use; I think the 'traditional' left is heading that way, but the jury is still out.

However the 'usual suspects' argument mentioned above applies to the Convention as well as the official Labour fringes, and agreed statements and worthy rants will count for nothing unless and until a much wider circle of people are involved.

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