23 January 2017
Cornwall Greens welcomed Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack to give the keynote speech at their first ever conference on Saturday 21st January.
More than a hundred party members and supporters turned out to hear from Amelia and several local speakers, including Green councillor for St Ives East, Tim Andrewes. “There was a real buzz and energy to the conference, with lots of interesting discussions, creative ideas and enthusiasm for change”, said Tim.
In a rousing speech, Amelia Womack focussed on the challenges posed by Brexit and the loss of EU funding. “We cannot allow despair to become an excuse for inaction”, she told delegates, emphasising how the Green voice is one of hope, not fear. She stressed the crucial importance of having strong Green voices at local level: “We know the difference one Green voice can make – whether it’s Caroline Lucas challenging the Conservative government in Parliament, Sian Berry in the London Assembly making sure we tackle pollution in the capital or Green councillors in Cornwall standing up for local services and setting up ‘free for all’ schemes that make it possible to recycle more.”
Amelia stressed that the Green Party stands for genuine democracy at every level, and that this is reflected in the way the party itself is organised: “All of these ideas that you want to see happen – you can make them happen. In our party, it’s members who make the policies.”
Following Amelia’s speech, delegates had a choice of sessions focusing on different aspects of Green policy for Cornwall and covering topics ranging from air quality and renewables, to building stronger communities, transport and economic policy.
"It was inspiring to be at an event where so many practical and forward looking ideas were discussed” said delegate Jonathan How, prospective Green candidate for Penzance East in May. “It really emphasised how wrong the old idea of the Green Party as a ‘bunch of tree-huggers’ is."
Greg Matthews from St Austell highlighted the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation, describing how this has been made worse by the fracturing of communities in the wake of cuts to social services and community facilities, and by the lack of affordable housing that allows people to stay in their own communities. “The need to build stronger communities is not just a platitude,” he said. “It’s an urgent need to address the causes of what’s building into a massive mental health problem.” Greg stressed how every aspect of Cornwall Greens’ local election manifesto would focus on community-based solutions that help address these issues.
Councillor Tim Andrewes explained how transport could bring communities together, and talked about the integrated transport policy for Cornwall that he has helped to develop and which will be in place next year.
In breaks between sessions, delegates were kept busy at the “Manifesto Marketplace”, which allowed them to have their say on Cornwall Greens’ local election manifesto that will be launched shortly.
Delegates also expressed their solidarity with marchers who had gathered worldwide to protest the direction being taken by the new US administration, particularly with regard to women’s rights, diversity and climate change.
The day ended on a high note with an inspiring presentation by Manda Brookman of the COAST sustainable tourism network. Winner of the Cornwall Sustainability Award, Manda sent delegates home with a clear vision, impressed with their duty to speak truth to power, and emboldened to tell different, more inspiring stories.