I am here to bid you welcome to Weston super Mare.
But there is more to it than that. Although I am not quite sure
Greens are not overly keen on protocol and ceremonial, but I have
a vague feeling that I should be telling you what a fine place Weston
is, and what fine people we all are, and what a fine conference
we are going to have. At the end of it you should have be left with
the feeling that the Green Party may very well be in a position
to form the next Government.
Before I begin, however, I have to mention that this is our first
conference without Mike Woodin. His intelligent and assured contributions
will be sorely missed. And his calmness, and his smile, and his
wit. And his presence. Although it is of course not impossible that
he is indeed present in another dimension. So, if you are here in
spirit Mike, we miss you and wish you every happiness, and look
forward to meeting up with you again in due course.
(I apologise to any materialists in the hall whose philosophical
toes have just been stepped on. You can put in an amendment if you
wish, at the end.)
The most appropriate memorial to Mike should be for us to develop
policy on the promotion of happiness, since that was the subject
of the book he never wrote.
Well, Weston is of course a very fine place, known for its beach
that is renowned for its miles of flat golden sand.
Because it is flat the tide goes out a very long way indeed. [tale
of blue flag]
Weston beach affords pleasure to a variety of sportspersons - speedsailers,
kite buggyers, power kiters, donkey ride afficionados and even hangliders.
It is also home to the most incredible motorcycle race in the whole
world, which is why Weston cannot offer you enough accommodation
If you have never seem 1000 motorcyclists going very slowly up
to their waists in black sandy mud - this is your opportunity. Not
to be missed. Do it.
Weston's main claim to fame however is not the beach, nor the fact
that Geoffrey Archer is Lord of Weston (lordy lordy), nor that John
Cleese was brought up here, but that its council chamber has been
blessed with a succession of Green councilors going back to 1986.
I handed on to Rosey Knifton, who handed over to the present incumbent,
Which brings us on to the subject of our slow but steady increase
in electoral successes. It is hard to think that for years we laboured
away with not the slightest whiff of an insubstantial, evanescent
hope of getting elected.
Now we boast not only a fine and upstanding body of district councillors
but also our London Assembly group and our particularly excellent,
hardworking and intelligent MEPs, Jean and Caroline.
Fair play to our elected friends and co-workers who are slaving
their butts off, ploughing through the paperwork, sweating it out
on committees and generally giving their all in the noble cause
of bringing a green light to bear on the murky darkness of twenty
first century politics.
Stand up elected members, wherever you are. Please drag yourselves
to your weary feet, so we know who you are.
Come on, don't be shy. Up.
There. Let's have a round of applause for these good servants of
So. It only remains to say what a fine Conference this is going
Each conference is set in its place in history. And there is a hell
of a lot of history going on at the moment.
Whatever you think about 2004, it is certainly not boring. The newspapers
are full to bursting with problems, which we have been addressing
politically over the past 30 years.
Oil, coal, gas and forest burning has brought global warming to
such a state that only braindead conservative fundamentalists like
George Bush can doubt it.
Oil prices are moving steadily roofwards. They hopefully will hit
the roof soon, although no one is actually sure where the roof is.
The only certainty is that it is higher than we think.
And then of course there is Iraq. What is there to say? What a sad
tragic, bloody mess. Thank you Tony and George for making us feel
so much safer. Not.
We stared with disbelief last week when we learned that whole nuclear
weapons manufacturing equipment has been dismantled and presumably
sold on to other idiot politicians intent on acquiring their own
peacekeeping nuclear deterrent. Or should that be WMD?
I mean whaat?? What is going on here? Tony Blair assures us in 2003
with wide-eyed fervour that it is imperative, absolutely imperative,
that WMD should not, never, ever, fall into the hands of terrorists
- and what happens?
- they invade,
- they forget to put a guard on the nuclear weapons
and then - guess what? they fall into the hands of terrorists.
The all knowing commentators who play a continuous obbligato have
been observing a very long period of "tacet" - silence
- on this interesting piece of news.
As I said in the letters page of the Guardian only the other day,
if Tony Blair was in any other branch of the public service he would
be working to targets. So where do you stand with regard to terrorist
incidents, Mr Blair? At a rough glance I would say that since you
declared war, there has been more, not less terrorist activity.
The sad fact is that Blair has not evolved beyond the Lord Haig
view of warfare. Haig used to reason that if we have 10,00 men and
they have 9000 men and we have a fight we should end up with - er
- 1000 men left over, and victory would be ours.
Blair and Bush think that if they can kill enough terrorists that
terrorism will cease. They cannot understand that terrorism is a
Hydra: cut off one head, and two more spring up in its place.
So it is in this anxiety provoking but energising political context
that we hold our conference.
It is our duty to provide a rational analysis of events, and a rational
set of remedies for the political ills of our age, based on the
three axioms of political ecology
· It is impossible to expand forever into a finite space
· It is impossible to take forever from a finite source
· Everything is interconnected
Our job is to develop and communicate our remedies effectively.
Sometimes, the flow of the universe helps us along. [brief summary
of air freshener / odo(u)rant story].
Progress is possible. It is happening in the face of the blatant,
overt madness and stupidity of what passes for government her in
the UK, in Europe America, Palestine, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and
all over the world. This universal tendency is for government to
make the wrong decisions. It is time that government was given some
standards they should live up to. The AI Index of human rights is
a good place to start.
As Steve Bell once wrote, the sky is dark with the wings of chickens
coming home to roost above the bed shared by Bush and Blair.
This is a time of political opportunity for the Green Party.
Lets do it.