Political Party Conferences
Almost any membership organisational structure requires some form of Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which those running the organisation can report back to the members, agree accounts, and possibly be held to account.
In the case of a political party the AGM is often held as part of a Party Conference at which the membership have some degree of say over the policy and direction of the party.
When PEOPLE was founded in 1973 the founders were explicitly NOT trying to create a new political party, they were trying to create a 'movement' to fight elections. Lesley Whittaker discovered that you did not have to be a formal political party to contest elections with a common group name (this was changed by the 1998 Registration of Political Parties Act which specified that if a candidate was not standing for a registered party then he/she could only be described as "Independent").
Despite their best efforts PEOPLE was consistently referred to by the media as a "party", and by 1975 he gang of four bowed to the inevitable and the name was changed to the Ecology Party.
Although they initially eschewed having a formal constitution or an AGM, they did see the need for holding conferences at which the membership could engage with the running of the party.
There were various other earlier meetings and gatherings, for example the September 1972 London meeting organised by the ecologist for Movement for Survival and the public launch of PEOPLE in February 1973, but the first official conference of the political green movement in the UK was held by PEOPLE in June 1974 in Coventry.
In November 1975 the Ecology Party National Executive Committee (NEC) degreed that "a formal AGM to be held at each annual conference." thus effectively formally introducing annual conferences.
The 1979 Conference held in September decided that a second annual conference primarily to discuss policy matters would be introduced in the Spring. Thus the pattern of two conferences each year was established - a spring conference to focus on policy and an autumn conference to be the AGM and hold elections for officers as well as debating and approving policy.
The Green 2000 Constitution in 1991 made provision for delegate conferences rather than all paid up members being entitled to attend and vote. This was overturned in 1999 and once again any member could turn up and vote.
A table of locations of conferences from 1974
|1974||Coventry (June)||70 attended. First Manifesto ratified|
|1975||Coventry (June)||Name change agreed. First MfSS ratified|
|1976||Sheffield||Only 27 attendees|
|1978||Birmingham (Sept)||100 attendees|
|1979||Keele (Sept)||200+ attended. London office agreed but elected leader rejected|
|1980||Manchester (April)||Policy Conference, also genesis of the Gatherings||Cardiff||First autumn AGM|
|1985||Dover||combined with Euro Green Congress||Dover||Name change to Green Party|
|1990||(also Coventry EGM on constitutional issues)|
|1991||Wolverhampton||adopted Green 2000 constitution|
|1993||GPRC strategy doc approved|
|2008||Reading||SOAS London||First Leader Election|
Author: Roger CO
Published: Sat Sep 8 2018
Last updated: Tue Sep 11 2018