This year was my first Labour Party Conference. I wasn’t alone in this, seemingly every other speaker from the floor of conference began their speeches with “First conference, first time speaker”. Conference was the first time since rejoining the Labour Party three years ago that I’ve been fully immersed in the movement and, as such, was an electrifying political experience.
This was especially true for everything surrounding our CLP’s motion on Open Selection. I had become quite pessimistic about our chances in the final weeks of the campaign, I had thought that our campaign was destined to splutter out at conference without too much fanfare.
What actually happened will stay with me for quite a while: first of all, our packed fringe event, which wasn’t even listed in the conference programme. It was a surreal experience for me, after having felt removed from UK politics and other members of LI to suddenly be meeting everyone and welcoming guests who I’d only ever seen on TV before (Emma Dent Coad, Chris Williamson, Paul Mason and Rachel Godfrey-Wood).
Second of all, how we were received on the floor. After procedural manoeuvres to avoid any debate of our motion, I saw three members of our delegation (Katy, Steve, and Jonathan) speak passionately to conference in its defence. In particular, Katy’s speech, which she opened by thanking the city of Liverpool for welcoming Irish women when they needed abortions before explaining who we are as Labour International. I still get quite choked up when I try to talk about this speech. All of this happened in my first 24 hours in Liverpool, and was a hell of a start to conference!
It may be a bit of a self-evident to say so, but the most positive aspect of conference was how it brings people from all sections of the part and all over the country together. I spoke to comrades who I’d never met in person before (which included all of our delegation), met loads of really lovely people (including two French comrades, Denis and Toufik), as well as getting to shake hands with people like Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, I got the opportunity to actually speak to people I admire, such as Mike Jackson (of LGSM) and Alf Dubs.
I could go on about conference for an incredibly long time, and indeed have been doing to my girlfriend (who is somewhat tired of it a month later), but I had a couple of concrete points I wanted to share from my position as our youth officer.
My one real problem with conference is how unaffordable it is to anyone on a low wage. Between delegate passes, accommodation and travel, it is prohibitively expensive to anyone on a low wage, which includes a great number of my fellow members of Young Labour International. Since conference is such a great experience, we are currently discussing plans to have a fully-funded youth delegation, which I alluded to in an article in a previous newsletter.
For similar reasons, I would like to see Young Labour International hosting a fringe event at the next conference. It would raise our profile even further and hopefully be a real opportunity to build more internationalist links in the party.