This was my 3rd year at LP conference and my second as a delegate. Thankfully this year, the renting of an “LI Conference house” for delegates went ahead hitch free. We were much luckier than the many homeless people living on the streets of Brighton, who were a stark reminder of how important it is to get a Labour government elected and put an end to austerity politics.
The Supreme Court decision was announced during Conference, declaring the PM’s decision to prorogue parliament as constitutionally unlawful. This added an extra fizz, with the very real possibility of a snap general election. It also meant that for the second year running the deputy leader was absent. The leader’s speech was packed full of solid campaign commitments; it’s likely that the manifesto will be the most ambitious and radical ever.
LI’s rule change motion was ruled out of order on dodgy, spurious grounds in my view. Another rule change that passed allowed the NEC to implement a fast track system for urgent or serious complaints. I suspect that this will run into trouble – the whole complaints system is in dire need of review.
There were the usual 8 National Policy Forum (NPF) reports, which always have a rough ride at conference. In the past it was only possible to refer back whole reports, but now delegates could specify parts of the reports they had problems with, with just one minute to make their points. This led to utter confusion. Brighton Pavilion CLP took this session to heart as they referred back paragraph after paragraph on all the reports, resulting in a new coin of phrase – “to do a Brighton Pavilion”. The whole process of making LP policy really needs major rehashing – even NPF reps are not happy with the current system.
And so onwards to the motions…..
Important motions going to conference included those that had also been in the LI ballot to choose our motion to conference – on the Green New Deal (GND), Brexit, and Free Movement.
Over 100 CLPs submitted motions on both GND and Brexit which needed compositing. The GND compositing meeting lasted well into the early hours for two days running. For Gaya and Kate, both new delegates, this was a baptism of fire, and didn’t they do well! Most of the LI motion (itself an LI composite) was included in the composite, and on the conference floor the motion was carried, committing the LP to reducing carbon emissions by 2030
There were two Brexit composites – motion 13 committing the LP to campaign solely for remain, and motion 14 supporting the current LP policy of reaching out to the 99% rather than just the 48%. LI had mandated our delegates at a GC meeting to vote for 14 and against 13. So I was upset that two delegates ignored the mandate, both of them voting for motion 13, and one voting against motion 14 and the other abstaining. This is not what we should expect from LI delegates. Nevertheless, motion 14 was carried, although not without controversy as a call for a card vote was denied on motion 13, which fell by a show of hands.
The Free Movement motion was already LI policy so we were mandated to vote for it. It called for a commitment to free movement and a more egalitarian immigration policy. In the past the Trade Union bloc has voted against a more open immigration policy, so it was fantastic to see that the motion was passed unanimously.
Conference is an exhausting affair. As a delegate you run the risk of growing roots into your seat. But it is also a serious shot in the arm in terms of activism. And for LI, this is a chance to meet other members and touch base with other CLP delegates. I’ll be back next year one way or another. I’ve already booked my bed!