Friday, 7 August 2015

Local Greens hold their first social at Keele.

A slightly shabby room above a student bar on the campus of Keele University, the sort of place like minded people would choose to meet and talk about changing the world.

This week members of North Staffs Green Party held its first social event at the Keele Postgraduate Association. Around twelve members attended the event and organiser Steven Maddocks described it as having been 'very successful' with a relaxed atmosphere, everyone at the university had, he said, been 'very welcoming.'

The event had, he said, 'done everything it set out to do' by giving members and people interested in joining the party an opportunity to socialise and discuss issues relating to politics and the environment.

The topics discussed ranged from how Newcastle becoming a transition town make the local economy greener and fairer, with several members suggesting ways such a project could be introduced through community groups working in partnership.

There was only moderate enthusiasm expressed for plans put forward by President Obama to make America's energy more environmentally friendly, with the consensus being that they are too modest to make a real impact. What little will be done could be rapidly overturned by an incoming Republican administration, as one member put it the changes made would 'go away because Obama will go away.'

Members also discussed the remarkable rise of Jeremy Corbyn from also ran to bookies favourite in the race to be the next leader of the Labour Party and the impact on UKIP of a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. The consensus was that a likely vote to stay in would diminish their support, although they could continue as recipients of the 'anger vote.'

All this sounds very much like what it was, an exercise in student politics, dogmatic intransigence and antagonism that often marks it was absent. The prevailing attitude towards other political parties was one of conciliation and a willingness to work in partnership on shared priorities.

This could resonate with a Labour Party that is moving rapidly towards a position further to the left that that held by its local leadership. One member said, with their tongue not too far in their cheek, Green Party socials could be the ideal place to take your left leaning Labour friends for a night out.

There was a certain earnestness about the discussion to be sure, the majority of those present were in their early to mid twenties; the age when idealism blossoms. It was tempered though by a mix of knowledge and openness to other points of view.

This chimed with the intention expressed by Steven Maddocks that the socials should be a way of introducing people to politics who wouldn't come to another kind of meeting.' An 'easy way in' free from pressure to sign up, obscure rituals and the feeling of simmering anger that often traps the left in a ghetto of righteous but impotent anger.

This was a place where generations and viewpoints could meet, explore their differing positions and then agree to differ on specifics whilst being united by strong shared values. It would be hard to imagine the big three parties staging a similar event, were they to try the whole thing would be managed into banality by their overly centralised structure.

The steady growth of the Green Party in Staffordshire, following a strong showing at the general election, is hardly comparable to the renaissance in the fortunes of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left, although there are similarities.

Both respond to a desire for a type of politics that works from the ground upwards, where members have a real role in making police and disagreements are handled with maturity before they become schisms. As I left on Wednesday evening I did so feeling that I had spent a couple of hours in an atmosphere where the business of politics is done in a quieter, more collegiate and far more mature way than at Westminster or down at the Civic Centre.

The next Green Party Social will take place at the Keele Postgraduate Association on the campus of Keele University at 6pm on 4th November.

Adam Colclough is the Press Officer for North Staffs Green Party.

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