Memories of Early Years - David Taylor
This contribution by David Taylor is some of his personal memories of the very early years 1974-1979
During the February 1974 General Election when I was sixteen I read in my father's Daily Telegraph about PEOPLE. They ran five candidates at that election. I was immediately interested as the article stated that this new movement based its policies on protecting the environment, so I wrote to them for information. Clive Lord, then the national secretary, responded, and I joined.
Later that year, in October, we had another general election. I was at school and put myself forward as a candidate in the school's mock election. I remember forming a campaign team with my friend Marriott and seeking to persuade the teacher in charge, Richard Morgan, to allow a PEOPLE candidate. I showed him some PEOPLE literature but he refused, although he did permit Communist and National Front candidates. I then raised a petition in support of my cause. I even stood on a table during lunch and gave a spontaneous speech urging support for free speech and my candidature. He still refused so I formed an alliance with the Liberal candidate (!) and carried on campaigning. We did a leaflet and canvassed vigorously. I thought the official colours were wrong so collected together all the green clothes and towels I could borrow and got my team to wear them, wave them and echo the word 'people' at every election event. In the end our joint Liberal/PEOPLE campaign came second to the Tories beating all the other parties.
I was at the party's annual conference in 1975 –the youngest person there- and voted for the name change to Ecology Party. Prior to that we had just been called PEOPLE (not, please note, the People Party). The change was proposed by Keith Rushworth, a bus driver from Leeds, but the suggestion originally came from our own SW member Teddy Goldsmith who was editor of the Ecologist magazine and author of the Blueprint for Survival. The logo and the colours remained the same –the world in the Age of Aquarius and coral, white and turquoise.
When I left school in September 1975 I moved to Cornwall and it was there that I serendipitously met a group of early eco-pioneers including Jeremy Faull, Teddy Goldsmith and Peter Bunyard who had all abandoned London for the 'good life' down in Cornwall.
I remember visiting Teddy and Kathy his wife, usually going over to their place in a horse and cart. It was at their house that I first encountered a compost loo but what most impressed me was Teddy's library, and his mind! It was there that my education in ecological politics really began.
When Teddy suggested, in 1976, that we drive up to Walsall North to support Jonathan Tyler's by-election campaign, I was easily persuaded.
Soon after that campaign Jonathan, who was Chair of the party, invited me, when I was back living in Dorset with my parents, to become the SW regional organiser and join the party's National Executive Committee as the region's representative. He was a university lecturer, ex-Labour and chairman of the NEC. I was an 18 year old long-haired drop out who had failed all his A levels. Jonathan told me the south west was the first region in the country to have a rep on the NEC. He asked me to organise a regional meeting and constitute the region formally, which I did the following year, 1977, in Exeter.
The next key moment was the 1979 general election. By that time I was living in Bath and we'd set up a good number of local branches across the region. I had adopted the title 'co-ordinator', this being a more facilitating and participative word than 'organiser'.
The BBC guaranteed an election broadcast to any party that fielded more than 50 candidates; so the party NEC –with Jonathan Tyler still chairing- duly decided that that would be our target for the election. The problem was there were really very few branches and only a few hundred members across the entire country. I remember we appointed Jonathon Porritt our national election co-ordinator.
Finding 50 candidates was tough and I felt much of the responsibility on my own shoulders, the south west being the most organised region. In the end nearly half our candidates came from the south west, the party crossed the magic threshold and our election broadcast, fronted by Jonathon, was a huge success. Membership rocketed to something like 5000 members. Ecological politics had arrived.
David Taylor, June 2016.
photo of DT in 1979