A strong Green Party presence was felt at Derby People’s Assembly on the 26th October, 2013 with leader Natalie Bennett making an appearance at the workshop on “Climate Change Threat and 1 Million Climate Jobs” and making a speech at the end of the day. Accompanying this was both the DGP stand and a number of members showing their faces for most of the day. Overall it is thought that over one hundred people attended throughout the day.
The format was much like many other discussion group based events. The day kicked off with three speakers talking about the People’s Assembly itself, Education Reform, and Cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service. After these speeches, attendees split up and went to the discussion groups they had chosen. There were two groups before lunch, speeches after lunch, two more discussion groups and more speeches to round off the day.
Sue Arguile from the NUT gave a very passionate speech about the recent strikes by teachers and Gove’s education reform. She spoke about a radio phone-in interview with a woman whose attitude had shocked her. The caller, as well as her general ‘teacher bashing’, had said that teachers should be looking to their ‘product’. This “marketised” view of teaching also shocked the attendees.
Following this was a local secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who spoke both about what the despicable cuts to the fire service will mean in terms of the service to the public and also about the treatment of workers in that sector over pensions.
Discussion groups were then held on: the Politics of the Crisis, the Demonization of Immigrants, Tactics for the Anti-austerity Movement and Debt and Loan Sharks. The immigration discussion seemed to centre on Unite Against Fascism and the benefits of setting up local anti-fascist groups to counter the British National Party, English Defence League and other far-right groups when they organise in areas.
The second set of discussion groups were on: Protecting the NHS, Defending Education, Re-unionising the Country and Busting Economic Myths. Although poorly attended, the re-unionising group sparked some enlightened discussion about the state of trade unions and their attachment to the Labour Party. One graph showed that the more direct action unions took, the more their membership increased. Also encouraging was the statistic that showed that union membership was up again.
There was an hour after lunch for some more speakers including Christian Wolmar who spoke much about re-nationalising the railways, mentioning that this idea was being debated in the Labour Party. He failed, however, to mention that us Greens have been campaigning on it for a while now.
After this, the third round of discussion groups were held on the topics of: Welfare, Public Transport, the Bedroom Tax, Using Art Against Austerity and a repeat of the Protecting the NHS group. Another member of the Green Party found the workshop on Bedroom tax to be a complete eye opener as they heard that many tenants are put in severe difficulties when they are served with orders and have no idea about their rights or what free legal help is available to them.
The final groups were held on: Building Community Campaigns, the Peoples Charter and (with a strong Green presence) Climate Change and 1 Million Climate Jobs. Natalie Bennett spoke at the climate change group about the need for investment in insulation of all houses in the UK to both reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. Natalie also spoke reassuringly of the party’s opposition to incineration both on the grounds of pollution and the harmful effects due to air quality reduction.
Finally speeches were given about: Green jobs and ditching neoliberalism by Natalie, the railways by Alex Gordon of the RMT union and the future of Derby People’s Assembly by Peter Robinson.
Natalie’s speech can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUqTBFSpWPQ
Chris Smith Member of Derbyshire Green Party and Young Greens