As I write from the train, heading back to London to get ready for Labour conference, I wish that I could have spent more time down in Brighton with the Green Party. This year’s annual conference is bursting with energy and excitement; and their ambitions are clear - a general election campaign that wins them four target seats; North Herefordshire, Waveney Valley, Bristol North West and Brighton Pavilion itself.
Green Party conference is different from that of the other main parties. Not in a logistical sense; it uses the same Brighton Centre that hosts the others. But in the way that it feels: it feels like true people-centred politics. The welcome is warm - a friendly registration desk rather than a line of police officers, and the exhibition hall is dominated by interest groups that are driven by – well - the interests of the country - not businesses with the largest Public Affairs budgets.
I’ve been lucky enough to sit alongside heavy-hitters like Molly Scott Cato, Zack Polanski and Ellie Chowns, all spokespeople for the party, at Best for Britain’s fringe on “How the EU benefits environmental protections”. If honest, this was never expected to be a panel discussion with much disagreement - although Molly makes a fair challenge to check that Best for Britain is not helping “make Brexit work”. I reassure the room that our mission to fix the problems Britain faces after Brexit is because people, businesses and their livelihoods need help today - they might not survive until a moment to reverse Brexit ever arises - and that it is most definitely not the same as those who say that they are ‘making Brexit work’! But of course when it comes to environmental protections there is no doubt in the room that the planet, and certainly our waterways, would be in much better shape had we not left the EU.
The panel discussion quickly turns to technical questions from the highly-engaged audience - and thankfully I can call upon the meticulous evidence gathering conducted by the UK Trade & Business Commission to help answer them. We discussed everything from nutrient neutrality and air quality targets to energy co-operation, the far right, and even what the India trade deal means for green policies in the UK.
One thing is for certain - this is a party that has repeatedly punched above its weight (especially if you were to measure by Westminster seats). Being elected to the European Parliament under a proportional system, as Ellie and Molly both were, the Green Party had real power - and it is a loss to the whole continent that English, Welsh & Scottish Greens are no longer making policy alongside their European counterparts.
So many of the people I speak to have been at great pains to thank Best for Britain for attending and running events at Green Party conference - which is odd because I came wanting to convey our sincerest thanks for being the last party to hold a torch for the UK’s closest possible relationship with Europe.
If only all party conferences could be like the Greens’.