My friend and comrade Luke Sorba, a Labour Councillor in Telegraph Hill ward, who mainly blogs on Facebook was Deptford’s delegate to Labour’s Conference this year and his comprehensive written report, was presented to the General Committee last night; it covered the rear guard actions by the Blairite rump, a reflection that some ex-ministers showed an arrogance to the membership, disappointment at the lack of debate on the conference floor and concludes with a paean to Ed Miliband’s heart and courage.
Luke observed that Ed Miliband had planned, in his leader’s speech, to say,
One Nation Labour has changed from New Labour – businesses have a responsibility to pay their taxes, respect their customers and treat their workers fairly
and that former Downing Street Policy Advisor, John McTernan on the official Progress website calls the above passage,
toxic, divisive nonsense… a malicious ultra-left, quasi-Trot, smearing of the best British government…
This is quite astonishing, the idea that paying taxes and treating workers and customers decently is ultra-leftist shows how far Labour’s right wing have come. It’s this one-eyed vision that (partly) led to light touch regulation of the banks, top-up tuiton fees, foundation hospitals, PFI and academies. It also indicates the level of organised resistance the Leader of the Party has had to overcome to get us to where this year’s Annual Conference left us, Luke says,
with the most distinctive, the most ambitious and most Labour offer to the electorate in over two decades. Something to reverse the disaster of 2010 when the “best British government…” was rewarded with Labour’s second worst General Election result since World War One.
Luke observed, as have I that the Conference floor is not the best debating chamber in the movement, the bias of the Chairs in speaker selection, and the fact that speeches are prepared in advance of the motions possibly irrespective of the motions diminishes the importance and power of the debate and events on the conference floor.
This is not totally compensated by the fringe. Luke attended a number of meetings and was impressed with the openness and availability of the front bench, although I had not noticed this in previous years. The one piece of front bench robbery that Luke felt necessary to report was the behaviour of Lord Andrew Adonis. We should note that Lord Adonis has never fought an election, let alone won one, on behalf of the Labour Party. We need to put a stop to this, while talent is important so too is commitment, as well as loyalty to all the members of the Party most of whom will never serve as elected representatives. Obviously we need to reform the Lords to make it 100% elected, but we should also ensure in the interim that Labour nominees have some mandate from the people.
On the subject of Ed Milband’s heart, Luke said,
Ed … is a thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, genuine person with an understanding of both principle and detail and who not only listens (rare for a politician) but (even rarer for a politician) thinks long term – his speech laid out a ten year programme.
He is also very brave….
Finally, after this Conference we can claim not only to be a clear alternative to the Coalition Government but also to the Labour we used to be (remember we lost 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010, 3 million of them before Iraq). It is abundantly clear that under Ed Miliband the Labour Party is going in a very different direction from the one rejected by the people at the last election.
I urge all members to follow him.
Luke presented his Report by Luke Sorba, Lewisham Deptford Manchester Conference 2014 to the October General Committee. At the time and still today, Lewisham Deptford are very private about the management of their affairs and there remained a feeling that split parties fail and Luke’s language about the poison being spread about Miliband’s attempts to move to the Left was controversially firm. I finally published this article in June 2016, nearly 18 months later, having decided that we mustn’t keep this stuff secret & that false unity is only a half truth, and its only the full truth that will regain people’s trust in politics.
The other part of the reason for talking about this now, is that the right in the party have never let it stop them.
Charter for a democratic conference
One response to the loss of heart and relevance of Conference, once the parliament of the Labour movement, is the Charter for a democratic conference. CLPD hosts the Charter for democratic conference. Here…. Their demands are,
- At least 50% of conference time should be reserved for contributions in policy debates by delegates
- The criteria for motions should be flexible and fair
- Conference should choose the right policies, not rubber stamp them
- Conference decisions and all papers should be available online to party members
- The structure of conference needs a review by the Conference Arrangements Committee
which to me aren’t good enough, we need to do better than this; critically we need to start with a blank sheet of paper on policy and programme making.
The featured image is one of mine, but taken at Brighton, the previous year. Also @flickr CC Dave Levy 2013 BY-SA