A tale of two conferences in Bournemouth

It was a little weird leaving Bournemouth a week past on Wednesday to think that the Greens would be moving into the same space a couple of days later.

The Liberal Democrat Conference had a super atmosphere and was always very busy. I couldn’t believe the number of people who attended those 9am sessions to do such things as scrutinise the financial accounts and most times when I went into the hall for speeches or policy debates the only seats left were in the gods.

All the fringe meetings were packed to capacity as the Conference was the biggest we’d ever had in terms of members attending. It was great to meet so many new members, too and all I spoke to were having a great time.

Lib Dem member Ryan Lailvaux, attending his first Conference, said:

What an amazing conference it had been. An opportunity to meet great human beings and take back wonderful memories. Never have I been so inspired or so proud to be part of a movement. A liberal movement.

Compare and contrast with this article on Bright Green which talks about the Greens event:

There was no buzz. As one activist put it to me: “The venue wasn’t great; the plenaries felt so sparse and empty – we weren’t quorate for ages on Sunday and lost half an hour of plenary because of it. It all just felt like we were collectively in a major funk.” It didn’t feel like there was a surge going on – sadly, because there isn’t anymore.

Officially around 1100 people were registered to attend, according to a party press officer I spoke to – but there were probably more like seven hundred (max) present, at its peak – and plenty of empty seats in plenaries.

The Bournemouth International Centre was an ambitious venue, in all fairness. I was there just a few days before for the Liberal Democrat conference, and it was absolutely packed in the main hall, with over 1,000 voting and watching Tim Farron’s speech. Green Party conference, in contrast, didn’t have the buzz of Lib Dem conference (bizarrely, given the latter’s trouncing in May). There was plenty of confusion about the Greens’ role in this new political context – unlike the Lib Dems, who can now pitch themselves as the real ‘centre’ party.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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14 Comments

  • paul barker 3rd Oct '15 - 4:23pm

    Embarrasingly, I was a member of the Greens for 14 years & far more active there than I have been in The Libdems. At the time of the big move to The Left, in the mid 1990s, a few of us did point out the flaw – what happens when Labours makes a big jump to the Left ? At the time, with Blair dominating Labour like a young God, the idea of Labour going back to The Hard Left did seem theoretical at best, many thought it would never happen.
    Over the last decade The Greens have made their placing well to the Left of Labour a central part of their appeal & thats gone for the forseeable future. There could be worse to come; whats to stop Corbyn inviting them to become an affiliated Socialist Society, perhaps guaranteeing them a number of Seats ? Given they share so much policy with Labour where is the neccesity to stand against them?

  • “unlike the Lib Dems, who can now pitch themselves as the real ‘centre’ party”.
    As many people have said on here in the days since Tim’s conference speech, can we please stop defining ourselves like this. We are a ‘LIBERAL’ party, not a ‘CENTRE’ party. We need to get on with clarifying our policies for the next five years and beyond in terms of clear liberal principles, not triangulating our views in response to the perceived positions of the other parties.

  • It is not that the Green’s do not have a distinctive position it is just that they have a confusing name. The greens locally spend far more time opposing “free” schools and TTIP than they do on green issues and the Green run Brighton Council has a worse record on recycling than our local tory run Council.

  • Stephen Hesketh 3rd Oct '15 - 6:06pm

    paul barker 3rd Oct ’15 – 4:23pm

    Paul, my experience of talking to Green members and ex-members at hustings, counts and online is that, in terms of the crude economic left-right axis the Greens stretch from Marxist, through Socialist to Liberal and can also cover the full Authoritarian-Liberal axis as well.

    I’d be interested to know what you think, based on actual experience, of the idea that if the Marxist/Socialist elements have or do leave to join/rejoin the Corbyn-led Labour Party, the remaining Greens might actually be more Liberally inclined and so attract to us – especially if Tim Farron were to emphasise our own beliefs in this area?

  • Simon Shaw – I never thought I’d say this but you are quite right, and my apologies – and I agree with you!

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Oct '15 - 7:50pm

    The Greens have always wanted PR and the speech by the green leader said so, but it was delivered with a tone of defeat about it. in May they took votes away from Labour, but are now offering an electoral pact if Labour agrees to PR. Basically this is a mixture of carrot and stick, but will JC even notice with the splits he has in Labour? Could he / they deliver?

  • Mark Inskip 3rd Oct '15 - 10:02pm

    @Stephen Hesketh – maybe we will see the emergence of tomatoes and mangos (one starts out green but turns red, the other starts out green but turns yellow/orange)?

  • paul barker 3rd Oct '15 - 10:52pm

    @ Stephen Hesketh – I certainly think we can take some voters back from The Greens & a trickle of members but most people who join Parties only ever join one, the dissatisfied usually drop out of active politics altogether. Even with The SDP only a small part of the members were Ex-Labour, most were new to politics.

  • Nice move to have a collection for Calais refugees at the Green conference.

    Couldn’t help a smile at Mark’s tomatoes and mangos analogy above.

    Agree that the Green party is a broad church, as Stephen outlines. I’ve come close to joining myself on occasion and it would be good if the liberally inclined Greens were to join us.

  • I was going to say I agree with Tony Hill and then, darn it , he said he agreed with Simon Shaw! I do wish we could get away from this centrist stuff, partly because we have to make an impact and partly because I don’t think it’s true. Surely we are on the left when it comes to social justice, green about the environment and at the moment rather on the right about economics and not quite made our minds up about defence. This is before we have looked at our policies more stringently with regard to their basis in Liberalism and, as a result, in personal freedom. We have the potential to be unique and’ positioning’ ourselves is is dull and boring when we need fire in our bellies for the fightback and to convince people that we mean what we say and to inspire them to follow us.

  • SueS – I agree with you as well. There is room at the moment in politics in the centre, but we should not be pitching ourselves as a centre party. Re-establishing our green credentials is a vital part of what Tim Farron has to do, and in fact what we achieved in this respect in coalition – Green Investment Bank, the massive expansion of renewable energy, the biggest programme of railway building since the Victorian era – provides a sound narrative base. We need to keep repeating it so that maybe the electorate begins to differentiate between what we were trying to do in government and the way that the Tories in power now are rolling back the ‘green crap’ as Osborne put it.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Oct '15 - 10:10pm

    Alex B 4th Oct ’15 – 8:25am
    “Agree that the Green party is a broad church, as Stephen outlines. I’ve come close to joining myself on occasion and it would be good if the liberally inclined Greens were to join us.”

    Thanks for your comment Alex. I have ‘followed’ the Greens since they were the Ecology Party 🙂

    Some have spoken of radical Liberals and Labour but I agree regarding the Greens actually feeling the next most liberal party to our own – hence my question to Paul, who has been a member.

    Beyond this, I find myself in agreement with Green Lib Dem Simon Oliver, SueS and Tony Hill.

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