Reasons to be at the GLD AGM
By Keith Melton
The much-delayed Annual General Meeting of the Green Liberal Democrats will be held in York on the evening of Saturday 14th March at 19.45 in room 5 of the Novotel Hotel.
As well as the perfectly sound reasons of electing the new Executive Committee and hearing a leading speaker (tba), normal for an annual general meeting, of course, I would like to emphasise three additional reasons for being there. These are all to do with the Campaign Strategy of GLD - and as Vice Chair (Campaigns) I feel a particular responsibility for raising these issues with you.
1 The World is on fire - combatting the Tories
As I wrote in my recent article on the GLD website, we are all aware that the World is on fire - and has been for a long time - California, Phillipines, Lancashire, Brazil, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and now Australia. As well as the destructive power of such fires, they also release tons of captured CO2, adding to the CO2 burden in the atmosphere which is at least part of the cause of the fires in the first place. We have climate change deniers in power in Australia, USA, Brazil and we have a Government in the UK, that appears to give lip service to the issue of climate change but is doing virtually nothing to ameliorate the situation.
Green Liberal Democrats have provided a conscience-prodding lead on environmental issues all during the life of this party of ours. However, although the policy was in place and was front and centre (almost) in our recent manifesto the Liberal Democrats campaign in last December`s General Election did not achieve anything like primacy for the issue most threatening the existence of life on our world, let alone the threat to a liberal society the existential threat also creates.
One key question we Green Lib Dems need to address is what more can we do to raise the profile of the climate crisis, beyond bringing sound resolutions to Party Conference. Do we align ourselves more closely with eXtinction Rebellion, or stand aloof from actual demonstrations and NVDA, non-violent direct action? Do we take to the streets, get ourselves arrested? Or do we take the more intellectual route to change?
2 Radical realignment of the environmental left
I have also written recently about the direction of political change needed in this country. There was a period in the early 1980s when there was a mainly left of centre realignment on the cards. The Alliance between the Liberal Party and the emerging breakaway Social Democratic Party threatened for a while to "break the mould". The 1983 general election brought us 23 MPs, but the excitement had faded by 1987 and we ended up with one fewer MPs in Parliament - sound familiar? Our lovely Liberal Democratic party was formed in 1988 and we failed even to come third in the 1989 European elections, when the Green Party took third place with 15% of the vote. The Euro election system was still, at that time FPTP, so the Green Party ended up with zero MEPs.
In 2019 the European Elections were, of course, run under proportional representation rules and we Liberal Democrats gained 16 MEPs, half of whom were Green Lib Dems or had been connected with GLD in some form or another in the recent past. The Green Party also succeeded in breaking through with seven(7) MEPs. The two parties together got 31.5% of the vote. But then our stupid FPTP system delivered a majority for the Tories in our General Election in December, so all our MEPs will be out of a job by the end of this month - in theory at least, unless there is a last-minute reprieve by some miracle.
I believe we now have to face the reality of the political system in this country until we can actually change it. It is clear that, with a solid majority in Parliament, the Tories will have no reason to change the system that works so well for them. Also, it is likely that they will now gerrymander the system by changing boundaries, giving them yet more chance of emerging with a winning number of seats next time round. We have no idea yet of where the dice will land as far as the Labour Party is concerned, but Labour may yet become an Electoral Reform Party - or they may not. The Green Party, however, is already a party seeking electoral reform. However we do it we must work much more closely with the Green Party. We need to talk about just HOW we do this at our AGM in March.
3 Growth of the Green Liberal Democrats
The Green Liberal Democrats have been growing rapidly for the last three years. When I re-joined the Liberal Democrats in 2017 (for background to my `retirement` from Party Politics in 1998 and my re-joining see my blog page https://keithmelton10.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/back-into-the-liberal-democrat-fold/ ) the GLD group was just over 300 in membership and it is now above 900 and rapidly closing in on 1000. I have long believed that there are thresholds in organisation, where lasting changes can occur. I believe that we are now past a threshold for GLD where we need to make significant changes to our organisational structure to manage and develop the continued growth of the organisation, before it slips backwards.
We had a fabulous Autumn conference last September in Bournemouth with more fringe meetings than you could shake a stick at, but the pressures on the organisation, of managing this delivery of commitment, led to the situation which meant that we jointly dropped the ball and could not hold a legitimate AGM - which, together with the additional delay because of the General Election, is why our 2019 AGM is being held six months late. No single person is to blame for this and it is clear that the whole executive committee shares responsibility.
In the end it may actually be no bad thing, because it really does prompt us to ensure that our membership has to be more engaged in our future activity. But we must use the 2020 AGM in York to boost our commitment levels. It is for this reason that I hope there will be a huge turnout of members at the AGM. If you think you can help in some way, then please come along and enthuse.
There are constitutional "limits" to the number of committee posts available and there will almost certainly be contested elections for some of these. However, the constitution and communications protocols do allow for sub-groups to be developed in several areas of action and these subgroups are much less formal. One new area I am particularly keen to see developed is the potential for Regional GLD groups. Several individuals have indicated an interest in following through with this potential, so please come along to the AGM and make sure you get involved as and where you want to. If you are unsure of just how you can help please feel free to communicate in advance of the meeting with any of the current officers of the committee - whatever skills you have got I am sure we can find a way to use them!!
See you in York - more the merrier!!
Vice Chair (Campaigns)
Green Liberal Democrats