True, there were a lot of empty seats in the gloomy civic hall. True also, some of the Greens were preparing to meet their Maker (also known as David Icke). But for those pronounced by Mrs Parkin to be among the living dead, politically at least, they were quite transparently alive and kicking. The kicking, of course, is the problem.
Here is the story so far. A small party, of no fixed abode or identity (the People Party, the Ecology Party, the Green Party) wanders for two decades in the wilderness before it stumbles accidentally upon a place lush with votes. There are two million of them - 15 per cent of the total - in the European election. It is 1989.
The promised land beckons but who shall lead them there? Dashing Old Etonian Jonathon Porritt? Mrs Parkin, silver-haired star of the small silver screen? Or the piercing-eyed Mr Icke, already displaying signs of Messianism? Will anybody lead them?
The years speed by. Mr Porritt gets fed up and dashes off. Mr Icke is overcome by Messianism, dons a turquoise shell-suit and wanders back into the wilderness. The votes trickle into the desert. Finally, last month, Mrs Parkin says her people will not trust her: she will lead them no longer. Yesterday attention centred on the kicking. Mrs Parkin's arrival at the conference was greeted by 'No Parkin' signs, a motion to expel her from membership and jubilation from her opponents.
Brig Oubridge, who lives in a tepee, said her resignation as party chair was 'the best thing that could have happened . . . all the members I know are dancing with joy.' Mrs Parkin responded by accusing a 'small group of anarchists' - which would include Mr Oubridge - of tearing the party apart and came close to suggesting it should be disbanded immediately. 'To actually say I want it to fold is perhaps putting it a bit too strongly,' she added. But unless it changed radically it was 'finished as a political force'.
Away from the crossfire, there was mystification at the savagery with which the press has been dissecting the Greens, a belief that Mrs Parkin should have toughed it out a bit longer.
Mrs Parkin's expulsion will be debated today but is unlikely to be agreed. But there was more bad news, in the shape of Mr Icke, former Hereford United goalkeeper and self-declared son of God, who will today address a fringe meeting organised by the Pagan Greens and declare that he 'thanks God' he is loony.
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