Labour Conference 2018
A first time visitor to a labour conference
I had no idea what to expect, and wasn’t sure if I would get chance to see many politicians or people working in the political space. How wrong I was. The city was packed with with faces, activists, journalists, members and passionate supporters of labour. Everywhere you looked.
So I booked my place as a visitor and made plans. I went on my own, not really knowing anyone. Of course there were bound to be a few from our CLP, but I wasn’t sure. And I knew Gemma would be tied up with delegate business most of the week. Would I spend the conference on my own? Anything but. I met so many people, new friends from across Reading, Woking, Bracknell and Windsor CLPs and union representatives.
I didn’t know how a Labour Conference would be organised – would members be sidelined while the politicians and journalists segregated in a different area? It couldn’t be further from the truth. The whole conference was open. Shadow cabinet, labour legends, up and coming MPs, unions, members, delegates, journalists, it was wonderful.
In the main conference hall, arguably the centre of the conference, issue after issue was debated with main speeches from the shadow cabinet such as Starmer, Dawn Butler, John McDonnell, Angela Rayner. The list kept growing and growing as Corbyn’s team delivered knock speech after speech, revealing more and more radical policy to rebuild Britain. Rather brilliantly, the most time given over to delegates to passionately debate the issues of the day.
Outside the main conference hall there were hundreds of separate discussions, interviews, sessions and training. Whatever your passion, there were numerous opportunities to attend sessions to learn new things, listen to in depth interviews, follow heated debates and ask questions of of shadow cabinet. I was particularly interested in discussions around Brexit, education, environment and small business with a particular emphasis on real plans and how they would be delivered.
The Angela Rayner interview and her vision for the National education service was fascinating and wide reaching. The room was packed with members, journalists and all the main media outlets. I’d hit jackpot and picked one of the standout sessions as Angela told us about her vision for cradle to grave education mixed with anecdotes of her remarkable life-story. It was particular interesting how so many sound bites were picked up and fashioned into stories across the national press that were published directly after the interview. Some accurate but many quoting just one or two lines and used to progress their own narrative that contrasted with the content and direction of the interview. It was an insight into how careful politicians must be to not gift quotes to journalists while being truthful and open as labour is transforming to being.
In another session, hosted by FSB (Federation of Small businesses) and attended by John McDonald there was a fantastic opportunity to understand how labour will better support small businesses with radical ideas such as the national investment bank. Eventually came the opportunity to discuss Brexit and revealed McDonnell’s preference for General Election rather than peoples vote. Sessions like these provided the opportunity for me to meet and discuss with John McDonnell how government procurement is biased towards big corporations while erecting huge barriers to block small businesses like mine. Labour will change procurement rules to support local micro and small businesses.
Several sessions around Brexit gave a fascinating insight into different views within labour with some fiery discussions with Caroline Flint, Paul Mason, Carolyn Fairbairn, Lord Andrew Adonis and Keir Starmer.
Nurturing the green economy shone the spotlight on Clive Lewis and his developing policy which will bring sustainability and environment to the heart of government by restructuring the Treasury. This has come about because of John McDonell going Clive a seat at eh treasury. A unique opportunity that will transform the relationship between the environment and government.
These were just a handful of the meetings I attended. All fascinating, all providing detailed insights into labour policy and direction.
Too many to mention
Just some people I had the chance to meet and talk with: Angela Rayner MP; Dawn Butler MP; John McDonnell MP; Clive Lewis MP; Paul Mason Journalist; Peter Stefanovic Journalist; Ben Chacko Editor; Eddie Izzard; Dennis Skinner; Comrades from Reading, Woking, Bracknell and Windsor CLPs.
And others I saw, listened to and even bumped into in revolving doors: Jeremy Corbyn numerous times; Jenny Formby numerous times; Emily Thornberry; Keir Starmer; Diane Abbot; The whole shadow cabinet ; Owen Jones; Len Mcclusky; John Prescott; Francis O’Grady TUC; Ask Sarkar; Theresa Griffin; Richard Corbett MEP; Carolyn Faribairn CBI; Caroline Flint MP; Lord Andrew Adonis; Hasan Patel @CorbynistaTeen; and countless more from politicians to TV presenters to members to journalists; too many more to mention.
Our CLP motion – what started as a draft motion a raised in July, grew through debate and discussion in our CLP resulting in a contemporary motion submitted to conference. This motion was chosen alongside others resulting in our delegate, Gemma, spending a whole evening with Keir Starmer and other CLPs with similar motions discussing and agreeing wording for the final motion that would be debated in conference. This motion was put to the delegates in the conference hall, discussed at great length until the vote. The motion had overwhelming support. And finally, in the leaders speech, the motion was referenced directly. The labour, and Corbyn’s stance had shifted. He is a democrat and he listened to the members. We have made a difference. It was wonderful to see democracy in action. A proud day for Labour CLP.
Out all night
And we mustn’t forget, the all important social side to conference. A chance to meet, make new friends go out with people from across the southern area and beyond. Comrades from Reading, Woking, Bracknell and Windsor CLPs. Whether it was getting to dance with Dawn Butler MP till 2 in the morning, at her party on the roof of the Shankley hotel, dancing with comrades at the launch conference at Pier Head or chats with new friends in pubs in the docks.
Liverpool is a city I know well, and I can’t think of a better, more welcoming place to host the event. It was a place I felt safe and secure, where issues could be debated with respect.
The labour conference was inspiring and I urge as many of you as possible to attend in the future.
The big message coming out of conference –
Labour is ready! The Shadow cabinet were on fire! The policies are ready! Corbyn is ready!
We are ready!