Until yesterday I'd never been to Liverpool but I had a party to go to so despite the engineering works on the trains I set off and (eventually) arrived in the big city.
But this was no ordinary party, in fact it was more of a huge gathering, this was the Green Party Spring Conference and I had absolutely no idea what to expect! The conference is four days long but as I was a bit uncertain about it all I'd settled for just the Saturday and even then I was worried I'd get completely lost. Thankfully the venue was right next to the station and once I'd registered and got my pack full of voting tickets, timetables and agendas I hurried off to my first session How Conference Works. This explained the main procedures for the policy sections and was very reassuring for us first timers.
Feeling a bit braver I headed to the main hall to listen to Deputy Leader Adrian Ramsay and London Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones. Remembering the TV coverage of other autumn party conferences I was quite relieved to find a large hall with nice round tables to sit at not a huge lecture theatre. It was a really friendly atmosphere and everyone was catching up and making new friends. Both speakers were good and despite a few awkward moments of belated applause it was pretty inspirational stuff, even for a not so hardcore member like me.
Next there was a policy section, unlike the other big parties the Greens still make all key policy decisions at conference with a democratic vote and it's really empowering to know you're making policy that will influence councils, MEPs' and one MP's votes-and the responsibility's quite scary too! All through the day I saw members talking about so many topics with such passion. It was great to actually hear people discussing and debating the issues, not the way it would play in the media or whether it would get votes. It's obvious the party is strongly committed to its core policies and won't compromise them just to get more votes.
Spring conference has a lot of training sessions as well as policy workshops and I took full advantage of them. I learnt how to use online media for campaigning, how to write a press release and how you can seize the news cycle. As well as being useful for the future it was interesting to hear people's experiences and case studies and to see how the experts achieve the results that are propelling the Green Party up into the centre stage of politics.
While conference is, by nature, very national you find pockets of local and regional activity too. There were regional hustings for positions, newsletters and leaflets from local parties and we even had the first ever North West Young Greens meeting. It was brilliant to meet some really passionate Young Greens from the North West and I'm sure that enthusiasm will spread as we organise more meetings and events.
During the day i even spotted a few famous Greens including MP Caroline Lucas, and MEP Keith Taylor. So in general a brilliant day with fantastic events, interesting, friendly people and passionate, thoughtful policies. Anyone who says the Green Party is a one policy party is wrong. Yes, sustainability is key to all that they do, but by putting social and environmental justice and sustainability at the centre of all policies the Greens are showing you don't have to compromise on principle in hard economic times and that in fact when times are tough protecting our world is more, not less, important for our own well-being. Take note Mr Osbourne...