As you might expect, the second day of conference is where party business intensifies. Once the national news cycle around the Leader's Speech subsides and remaining delegates arrive in the city, attention turns firmly to voting upon policy motions and the substantive discussions on the fringe circuit.
Things kicked off early with the Deputy Leader's speech. Viewed as a rallying cry to enthuse activists (the traditional role of Deputy Leader speeches), Adrian Ramsay's address can be deemed a success. That said, the content he chose resolutely refused to stray far from the script Caroline Lucas had laid down the day before and was therefore unlikely to interest news reporting for a second day, which is a shame. Within the strictures of his role, I would encourage him to continue to hone a distinctive voice and policy platform that both complements Caroline's and surprises the audience. This year I found his speech likeable, but underwhelming.
One issue that did rouse a great deal of debate was a seemingly innocuous motion to come out against the Government's Immigration Cap and reaffirm our commitment to a fair and liberal immigration system. In the end, it became quite an impassioned discussion and whilst there was understandable opposition to it due to the potential political mischief the media could make of our existing policy, at other times some speakers skirted dangerously close in my view to being racist. One participant even argued that environmental sustainability should always take precedence over social justice, something I have real political difficulty with. Thankfully, the motion eventually passed intact, but it was a sharp reminder that we must guard against complacency in moving towards a more diverse membership that challenges such outdated views.
Later in the afternoon, I chaired a fringe session with both Deputy Leaders of Brighton & Hove's Green Council, as well as number of Cabinet members and Councillors from my home city. It was a really great opportunity for members around the country to ask some pretty direct questions about our experience of taking power in a local authority and get a sense of some of the challenges we hadn't seen coming! In spite of being held at the same time as one of the keynote panels on inequality, we had a really substantial turnout and could have easily continued talking into the night. As a local party not noted for our large conference delegations, it was really heartening to see fellow members from home connecting with others around the country and sharing strategies.
Finally, I have to report that I was sadly not successful in my bid to be elected to the Green Party Executive. I really felt I fought as strong as a campaign as I could over the summer on this. Anyway, I'm staying chipper - political setbacks are good character building exercises! I really felt I got to understand the values and priorities of the membership through old fashioned debate and listening and hopefully gave members a healthy democratic contest to get their teeth into in a year when most GPEx roles were uncontested. Thanks to all of my readers who actively supported my candidacy, either through kind words or well-placed publicising of my blog articles on the subject. I'm weighing up where to put my energy next, but I've not done with contributing to the party. I'm as hungry for us to move forward towards success as ever.