We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Green Liberal Democrats Summer Conference 2018

August 20, 2018 9:26 PM
By Tom Sutherland

On the 19th of May I attended the Green Liberal Democrats Spring Conference celebrating 30 years of the organisation. The event was hosted by founder Keith Mellon and featured a number of prominent Liberal Democrats including Simon Hughes who kicked off proceedings, Wera Hobhouse, Ed Davey, Lyne Featherstone and party leader Vince Cable who gave an insight into the Green future within the Lib Dems.

Simon Hughes gave 10 top tips / key points when opening which were:

Tom Sutherland with Simon Hughes

Local member Tom Sutherland with Simon Hughes

  • Win hearts and minds at school through non-political groups such as Greenpeace and while at university highlight the Lib Dem Green agenda.
  • Green issues have come to the forefront of the Liberal Democrats policies since 1988 with issues raised regarding the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. These included sustainability and recycling.
  • Opinion polls have suggested that only 9% of the electorate rate the environment as a top priority and both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party only started to include green policies in their manifestoes from 1997.
  • Some issues that Simon Hughes raised include balancing transport against the countryside as the Newbury and Winchester by-passes have caused issues. Also, other issues that need balancing against each other are housing vs. environment vs. sustainable communities.
  • Furthermore he emphasised the need to identify a priority local issues for each election campaign. He gave examples of footpaths and speed limits as topics in which the party can engage locally.
  • There is a need to be visibly active in campaigning on green issues such as tree hugging.
  • The importance of Social Media can not be overstated with WhatsApp and Snapchat becoming powerful tools in attracting voters.
    Tom Sutherland with Wera Hobhouse

    Local member Tom Sutherland with Wera Hobhouse

During Wera Hobhouse's talk at the conference she gave the attendees an insight into her constituency in Bath which faces a number of transport and pollution issues. Wera was part of a session which was on Managing Air Pollution and its implications which impacts on her constituency and many others across the country. Some of the points which were raised included the need for clean air zones within the city of Bath as well as greener public transport. These are issues that effect most constituencies and ideas from here can be replicated and placed within local campaigns.

The key issues on the public agenda included:

  • Plastics and throwaway society: This came to prominence recently with the amount of plastics in our ocean and the 'plastic and throwaway society' highlighting the need to recycle as much as we can. Also, the point was made that there needs to be clear instructions on the various types of plastic outlining what can and cannot be recycled.
  • Renewable energy and energy conservation: Make more use of renewable energy such as wind turbines and solar panels which could lead to savings made by the average citizen.
  • Non-pollution transport: This includes cycles, rail electrification and de-dieselisation. The idea is to incorporate these non-polluting types of transport in to the main Liberal Democrats agenda with the possibility of taking a big issue from this and running with it in the borough campaign.
  • Fracking: Evidence suggest that fracking in areas which had been previous coal mines are more susceptible to earthquakes.

Regarding the next general election and challenges that the environment faces Vince Cable and Wera Hobhouse made a number of important points. Vince emphasised that there was success during the coalition with things such as the Investment Infrastructure Board, wind turbine factory built at Hull and strategies to encourage the use of electric vehicles all being introduced to the agenda. However, at the same time there are many challenges that were faced and that we continue to face, most notably the Heathrow expansion (which seems to be going ahead), fracking (which is a major issue in certain regions) which is an issue that the Lib Dems have campaigned against and new rail infrastructure. Another successful although controversial point that was evident at the last election was the formal arrangement the party had with the Green Party where in certain seats one would stand aside for the other. This was seen in Twickenham as the Greens stood aside there while the Lib Dems returned the favour in Caroline Lucas' Brighton Pavilion seat.

Tom Sutherland with Vince Cable

Local member Tom Sutherland with Vince Cable

In summary, the event encompassed what is great about the Liberal Democrats; good range of views, extensive debate and progressive policies. It is clear that the party wants to be seen at the forefront of Green policies as it's becoming increasingly important for the need to leave the planet in a better shape for our children. Green issues have been highlighted thanks to David Attenborough's Blue Planet which raised the need to cut down on vast amounts of wasted plastic which effects the Ocean on a daily basis. The conference filled me with a sense of optimism that we as a party can make a huge difference to the Green agenda and stand out by offering pragmatic solutions rather than just being an echo chamber which other parties seem to be on these issues. The main point which I can take from the conference is the need to focus on green issues locally and think how becoming greener can have a positive impact within my area.