Launching Hampshire Greens

Written by Peter Handley, Portsmouth Greens

On Saturday, 7th November, Hampshire Greens held their inaugural event to encourage cross county initiatives and coordinate on local issues. I was live tweeting on the @HampshireGreens account for the day and have written up my coverage of the event here.

The event had around 50 attendees from all of the main groups in Hampshire and was a great place for networking and knowledge sharing. The event was co-chaired by Kylie Barton and Jonathan Essex.

The day started with an introduction from Kylie Barton about why she’d set about organising the event and why she’d wanted to get everyone together in an effort to increase communications between the neighbouring groups. After the General Election, and the thrill of the Green surge, The Green Party nationwide was looking at how it needed to be structured moving forwards.

Across the South East, some county level organisations were finding they had enough members to localise further, whilst others, like in Hampshire are considering what county wide structures would be needed to improve communications and joined up action to better hold the authorities that operate in the area to account.

Kylie said: “A Hampshire Greens federation will enable more cross border communication, and be a hub for smaller parties to turn to when looking for new ideas or support, and most importantly help us louden our voices in an era of Corbynism”.

There is a lot to be proud of for all Green Party members in Hampshire, with share of the vote increasing for the Green Party across the region. To ensure the green surge is continued, and built upon, it is clear we need to work together to grow the movement further and root this growth in the issues that impassion the members. Jonathan then followed, talking about how we are energised through campaigning to make the change needed – we have to win for the silent majority, he said.

The first talk of the day was from Zak Bond, National Campaigns Officer for the Green Party. He talked to us about the help at our disposal as local members from head office. He talked delegates through details about the campaigns hub section of the member’s website, where there was information about the national campaigns being run, with flat packs available to assist at local campaigning efforts on issues such as Climate Sense and the Human Rights Act. Something many seemed to be unaware of was the ability for local groups to post their own stories, for national to be aware of and perhaps use when constructing their own press coverage. Zak talked about the importance of having a strategy so that we aren’t just reacting to events as and when they happen, though of course, flexibility is necessary. All campaigns, either local or national need to have objectives – your aim for the campaign provides you with a broad vision, but the objectives are how you get there. As part of this process it’s vital to set timelines, messages, learn and know your audiences & how to monitor progress against those objectives, Zak advised. Campaigning isn’t easy – but it is necessary. Zak closed his talk with the statement: “Change means movement. Movement means friction” – Saul Alinsky

Vicky Elcote, South East Regional Co-ordinator, talked to us about campaigning issues and why we campaigned – “It’s the environment stupid”. The crowd broke up into smaller groups to come up with discussion points and ideas for the rest of the session.

The main points that came from the floor as to why we campaigned were:

  • To win elections/seats
  • To help people change their minds from where they have been to where they should
  • To get green representation on councils
  • Locally talking to people and raising awareness about issues affecting them
  • To raise awareness, inform and combat disinformation
  • You can’t win, unless you engage people a
  • Raising issues – make people aware that Greens are not JUST about the environment, but also that the opposite is true – the environment effects much more than the obvious and that it underpins everything else
  • To effect real change
  • Combatting apathy by presenting an alternative – illustrate how things WILL affect your life – and explain how they can make things change
  • To bring likeminded people together and help grow communities.

Next up was Nick Brelsford from Sustrans was talking to us about transport around Hampshire and the My Journey project. IMG_7207Nick is based and works in North Hampshire, working with companies to encourage employees to cycle to work. The future of cycle funding in the region is currently uncertain, as the current round of funding expires in March, with no details of what will replace this once it’s used.

We live in a car centred world – even in a Green audience there was about 50/50 split in the audience re car and other transport types used to get to the event (though everyone seemed to have pooled cars and shared the journey), though Nick said that was much better than most of his audiences. Hampshire has more cars than any other county, with 2/3rds of commuters travelling by car, meaning 450,000 cars are being driven to work daily.

Sustrans is a Hampshire County Coucil project to help people make decisions about their journeys – particularly short journeys – less than 5miles in particular to encourage reduction in use of cars. They who work with national cycle network, and encourage people to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. There is a long term goal to design communities in such a way as to encourage walking and cycling.

Nick’s role is primarily about behaviour change. Events and interventions are needed to reduce usage of cars and there were striking similarities between their efforts and that of the Green Party educating and dispelling myths in an effort to entice the behaviours needed to change the world.

Sustrans identifies and helps people overcome their barriers. If safety is the primary objection, they can help with that. Puncture repair workshops, maintenance classes, 1-2-1 route training – all these things make a difference in increasing bike use. Similarly, distance was often used as an objection without people ever having tried to do it, or mix up the journey with a train for part of the route.

Infrastructure is also needed – rail hubs have a tendency to be very London centric, rather than running between local communities. Road capacity is being increased all the time, but this usually ends up with the same level of congestion, with more cars on bigger roads. Subsidised bus services are under pressure to be self-sufficient, funding wise, but this only looks at the “cost” of that service directly and not its wider impact – sustainable transport is not just a transport issue.

Most of the afternoon was spent in smaller groups in breakout sessions, which gave us tips on Target to Win and ways to engage and activate those quieter Green Party members. The key talk for the day came in the “Hants working better together” session, where members from each of the main local parties met to discuss how best to work more effectively together. In this session, Kylie Barton was elected as Co-ordinator of a loose federation of the Green Party in Hampshire with representatives from each local party. This new grouping will take up the task of streamlining communication between the groups in the region and helping improve the ways that they could work together, including rallying on local campaigns as a larger group, and of course, Targeting to Win wherever possible.

The engagement and activism session was run by Louise Venn from National who spoke of the importance of separating businesses out in meetings, and holding interesting meetings that include speakers, workshops, or social elements. As a party of many seasoned activists that have just welcomed a huge new influx of members, it is important that we conduct every public get together from the viewpoint of a new member. We must remember that we are a political party to give clout to the issues we care about, and it is the issues that must remain at the centre – not the bureaucratic minefield politics can become if we are not careful as this is what turns people off, and we must keep turning them on.

IMG_7209Another breakout session was run by party favourite and London Assembly Member Darren Johnson who spoke to delegates about targeting to win. Darren reminded attendees that getting a Green person in power is possible anywhere, but to get there we need to pool our resources and focus in on an area. Darren talked through the importance of leafleting, and good PR and marketing in general to help us get elected. The session also included a brief discussion on how if possible it is great to have an open space for people to drop in and speak to Green members, and also how showing connection to the community and its organisations through active engagement really resonates with the electorate. Last but by no means least, we heard from Eloise Shavelar who spoke to attendees about the work Keith Taylor is doing at EU level and how he can help us with local campaigns too. Keith gets most constituent emails about animal rights, and he has had a huge win recently meaning that bull fighting will no longer be subsidised. One audience member from Andover spoke of how Keith is really hands on and always there to help with local campaigns whether that be in person or via a statement. There was also some insightful discussion around the Green Yes for the EU referendum with audience members applauding a question on the need for us to get our reform recommendations out before the other parties and before campaigning really begins.

The day was highly productive, and warmly received by all in attendance. One gentleman even said that this was the first time he had been publicly active with the party and that it exceeded all of his expectations and increased his thirst for more. All of us that were there will be interested to see how this new entity develops over the coming months, so watch this space!

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