Sunday, 29 September 2013

Green Party conference in Brighton.

Marilyn Sansom sends this report from her visit to Conference on Saturday 14th September.

" I was especially interested in three sessions on Saturday: 1. Alternatives to the car in urban environments: Brighton and Hove's experiences, 2. The Future of our Railways, and 3. How should Greens break into mass popular awareness as UKIP have done?

1. Cllr Ian Davey (Deputy Leader, Brighton and Hove Council) began the first session by telling us that after London, Brighton is the least car dependent city in the UK, that bus use has increased by 6%, with car use for work being down from 56% to 41%, and that 4,000 trips are made per day by bus in peak time. There is a city car club, to which 40-60 people belong.

Ben Sheritt, from Sustrans, goes to 40 schools to promote children cycling to school, and takes them on outings (such as rock pooling) by bikes rather than by coaches. He offers them a smoothie for answering the question, "I would like to cycle if...".

2. Caroline Lucas chaired the session on railways. Rail passengers already pay some of the highest fares in Europe, and are set to see increases of up to 10% next year. The Rebuilding Rail report estimates that £1.2 bn. is being lost each year, due to fragmentation and privatisation. Also, the increases are going to foreign investors and the government rather than back into improving the trains. Caroline is putting forward a Private Member's bill, calling for trains to be brought back into public ownership.

Ellie Harrison, who started Bring Back British Rail (which has 43,000 supporters), said that the UK has the highest rate of domestic flights.

Peter Pinkney, of RMT (union) disabused the audience of the myth that BR was wonderful, saying that the workers were poorly paid, and that safety standards were not kept up, leading to the Hatfield disaster. He said that Network Rail should bid when the franchises expire.

Stephen Joseph, from Campaign for Better Transport, argued for a fuel tax on domestic flights, and the need to extend the network of railways (by reopening the Beeching cuts; he was influenced by road builders); build new towns around the rail network, manufacture trains here, and carry more freight by rail

Neil Lawson, Compass, said that he liked coming to this conference because it was democratic! That there should be no 1st or 2nd class, that all should be 1st class! That 38 Degrees and many different groups must join together to re-socialise the railways, post offices, etc., not to have a free market.

3. Some opinions on UKIP: The Greens spend too much time on the minutiae of policies, as though we were going to be in power tomorrow.
We put people off because we tell them they'll have to change their life style. UKIP's message is based on fear (going to be attacked; inundated by immigrants, etc.)
UKIP is a single issue party. They aim for older voters, and postal votes. Nigel Farage exudes bonhomie, jokes.
Adrian Ramsay said that we should be angrier; Caroline L. that we should talk about how to put our message across - think creatively.
Jonathan Essex: stand for integrity.
The recession has helped UKIP - the economy is the main issue on the agenda.