I was privileged to attend Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool as a voting delegate. The Conference was the book-end of a summer in which the Labour Party re-opened the debates about programme and strategy which many had thought finished last year. This article reports my experience and views; it is quite long, about 2750 words and is broken up into sections, Unity and the membership, some comments on the politics of Conference, a short section on the future, also covering the Tuesday atmosphere and Wednesday’s Leader’s speech. This is followed by a commentary on the Rules debate and the surrounding shenanigans; the main part of this article/report is concluded with comments on the state of the debate on Immigration and Brexit.
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Given Dianne Abbott’s appointment as Shadow Home Secretary I feel there is an opportunity to change and challenge Labour’s position of abstention on the Regulatory Powers Bill. There is some urgency to this as today is the last day in which Peers can place amendments to the 3rd Reading.
The arguments in favour of passing the RPB is that the current surveillance laws are inappropriate for today’s technology and the current regulatory regime is insufficiently powerful. The arguments against are that the legalisation of past illegal practice and the authorisation of new powers are a massive breach of the rights to justice and privacy, there is zero proportionality and the proposals are of unknown effectiveness.
This was written at the time and published 11 months later, It consists of notes I made at the CLPD meeting and at #lab16 on the first day. It looks at the 1st CLPD meeting, their Delegates briefing and makes some critical comments on the proposed rule changes and Lillee and McNicols speeches.
I have been at Labour Party Conference for the last week, as a Delegate; it’ll take me some time to get my thoughts and words together.
This has been written over a period of months, and it has never seemed the right moment to publish it as winning the case for justice and then the leadership campaign seemed more important but the issues raised by Jill Mountford’s expulsion just do not go away. In our local party, we have been discussing it since it happened, continuously voting, when permitted for an explanation, an appeal hearing and latterly in support of the Chakrabarti Inquiry recommendations establishing the principles of natural justice, due process and proportionality, all missing from Jill’s exclusion and the subsequent actions. During the leadership election the issues come to the fore as Tom Watson, the Courts and then Owen Smith turn up the heat. The temperature is now raised again by the Despatches programme and its trailers in the Murdoch press. This article talks about why she should be welcomed, as an individual and in principle, the rules of natural justice and the rules of the Labour Party. Jill Mountford was expelled through administrative action for allegedly supporting the AWL. Jill had rejoined the Labour Party in the aftermath of the 2015 General Election
Over the weekend, Dan Hodges, a right wing commentator, who claims to be ex Labour, wrote a piece stating that Owen Smith had lost the Leadership election. Essentially he argues that relying exclusively on his alleged superiority in winning an election is bogus, because he can’t. His argument was that while many Jeremy Corbyn supporters are maybe prepared to compromise to win the next election, they are not prepared to compromise to lose. This is pretty insightful for Hodges. What he and many in the PLP underestimate is the massive anger felt by many of the 200,000 Labour Party members who fought the 2015 general election being asked to concede the political offer to an inadequate front bench, an eventually demonstrably inadequate manifesto and an inadequate campaign.
This is what I think happened in the Courts who have I believe let the Labour Party’s members down.
This was written about the noise created as Labour’s bureaucrats massaged the membership. Good Grief! We might have noticed 350,000 trotskyists over the last 20 years. This was originally a storify. It looks at Momentum.
They’re not frightened of Jeremy Corbyn, they’re frightened of us!
That was a shock, a soul deadening shock. In the words of the meme, I felt a grief for the loss of the future I thought I and my children had. How did this happen? How could we have voted to follow the corrupt and the vain, Johnson and Farage. The answer may have been most rapidly and accurately identified by John Harris of the Guardian in an article, entitled “If you’ve got money, you vote in … if you haven’t got money, you vote out” in which he identifies those whom we’ve known about for years, who can be described in a number of ways. In my micro blog post, “Pebbles”, I describe them as ‘globalisation’s losers’, the working class whose towns, communities and institutions have been smashed during the neo-liberal ascendency, communities that Labour stopped listening to and representing in 1997 leading to a loss of 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010. Making this even more problematic for Labour is that nearly ⅔ of Labour’s voters, voted remain, and just as globalisation’s losers cannot be ignored, nor can Labour’s majority of remainers. What is to be done?
I was hoping to write a piece on a response to the “Leave”vote and a response to the Chakrabarti Inquiry but Ann Black of Labour’s NEC in a circular wrote and asked what her maillist thought of the shenanigans. I had to reply and decided to share it with you all. She stated she planned to vote to include Jeremy on the ballot paper, which I support but asked for opinion on if there should be a freeze date for inclusion on the electoral roll and what to do about registered supporters. I argue to include all members, including those that have just joined in the ballot for Leader. I also argue that the Party should offer its supporters an opportunity to register and join in the ballot. I also commented that the collapse of the National Policy Forum is an opportunity.
Over the weekend, for the first time ever, I attended the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, their 43rd it would seem. Much of the right wing media locate the intellectual and organisational engine room of Corbyn’s victory in this body. It’s been around for a while, over 43 years it would seem, but I think it underestimates the changes in society occurring over the last 10 years and the changes available to and needed by the Party, and they’re not alone. The meeting was as those of with experience of the movement know, a mix of set piece speeches from in several cases very worthy individuals, the receipt and acceptance of reports, and debate around motions. At the end of the day, I left disappointed.
I went up to London to attend the Labour Representation Committee Special General Meeting. The original LRC was the fore runner of the Labour Party, but today it is a left-wing pressure group and it called a special meeting mainly to discuss strategy after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Party. The most important debate would be the LRC’s relationship with Momentum as Momentum regularises its position within the Labour Party. The meeting was opened by John McDonnell MP who reprised the previous nine months and then followed by the debate which shows the Left are as conflicted as the Right about the new members and renewed interest in the Labour Party.
I was invited to attend Tom Watson’s speech building on much of his campaigning work and presented in the New Statesman as reclaiming civil liberty for the Left, although sub titled by him as “David Cameron is governing from the shadows”. In this article I review the speech; I try to report on it and to comment by adding some personal views and insights, in some cases new ideas provoked by Tom’s speech. It was quite a long speech and it takes a diverse route to get to its polemical heart which is that Democracy is the choice by an informed citizenry of a government, subject to the rule of law and that the Freedom of Information Act is one of the pillars of this contract and should not be diminished or repealed.