Our delegate at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this year was Linda Taylor, whom we thank for this report.
Sat 26th September
Over a thousand women gathered in Brighton for the Labour women's conference. Tributes were paid to Harriet Harman who told us that the Tories didn’t share our fight for equality and that there are now more Labour women MPs than all the other parties put together. The Party has nearly doubled its membership since May and 74,000 of these new members are women. One of the best sessions at the conference was the 'Open Mic' where any woman could come and speak for a couple of minutes about any issue. It was a lively session that raised concerns about everything from why Labour should stand candidates in Northern Ireland to making CLP meetings more accessible to those who find it difficult to get to them. Jeremy Corbyn spoke very well and was given an enthusiastic standing ovation both before and after his speech. The conference slogan was 'Straight Talking. Honest Politics.' It's was going to be a fascinating week!
Day 1 Conference
A full day as your delegate started with a briefing for our region and meeting other delegates from the southeast. The morning sessions discussed the aftermath of the General Election and the renewal of our party with a 166000 new members since May. We were told that many were joining not only because they want to see the back of the Tories but also because they want to see a new kind of politics that would shake up the political culture. There were two brilliant speeches in the afternoon session. Carwyn Jones was excellent as he explained the record of the Labour Government on Wales. Apparently Welsh Labour has delivered on every promise that was made in 2011. Chris Bryant MP gave a passionate and rousing speech in a debate on 'New Politics' explaining that our democracy is broken and that people are 'sick and tired of command and control' by the two main parties. Throughout the day delegates voted to prioritise the motions that should be debated for the rest of the week. I voted for our Arundel and South Downs CLP motion on 'Austerity and the Public Services'. This was successful in the ballot and therefore I was required to attend the compositing meeting. John McDonnell was at the meeting too and he obligingly agreed to let me have a photo with him. I was looking forward to seeing the motion debated tomorrow and to hearing John’s first conference speech as Shadow Chancellor.
Day 2 Conference
This morning's debates were around the theme 'Britain in the world'. Highlights were speeches by Maria Eagle, who admitted that despite having a different view to Jeremy Corbyn on the renewal of Trident, she was delighted to be asked to do the job of Shadow Defence Secretary. She called for a wide-ranging debate on the issue both within the party and with the British people. Hilary Benn made a strong, powerful and well-received speech on what he called the five great challenges for the world - disease, inequality, oppression, war and environmental damage. He told us that the Labour Party stood against the inequality of life chances for the people of the planet and in particular spoke about the seven and a half million Syrians who were displaced because of the terrible war in their country. Those in the hall keenly awaited the keynote speech by John McDonnell and of course the press photographers crowded around the front. (How many photographs can you take of John and Jeremy?!) The speech went down really well in the hall and the unassuming style and delivery of John McDonnell was indeed straight talking, honest politics. He spoke of a radical departure from the way that previous administrations had run the economy and wanted to change the economic discourse in the country. Don't believe the spin in the media and watch the speech yourself! Our composite motion on Austerity and Public Services was passed by Conference and I shall bring a copy to our next meeting. The front page of the Conference Newsletter today showed your delegate enthusiastically joining in with a standing ovation yesterday!
Conference Report Day 3
I expect most have now seen or heard news of Jeremy's speech. I do urge you to watch the whole speech so you can make your own judgment on its merits. I can report that it was enthusiastically received by those in the hall and there were long standing ovations both at the start and end. I felt that the speech had three main themes. Firstly to challenge the Tory idea of economic and family security and reframe them in terms of Labour values. Second to address the notion that you should not just accept and be grateful for the life that you've been born into, you can and should aspire to a better life. You can challenge a world that's made by others. Thirdly there was a clear message that we can do politics in a different way. The media of course have spun their own stories but let's hope that people see through their distortion. I picked up a copy of the speech, which I will bring along to the next meeting.
Conference Report Day 4
With debates on communities, justice, health, education, Syria, Columbia and an address by London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan there wasn't much time to properly discuss all these issues in the four hours allocated today. Perhaps we need a five-day conference? Except to say that as inspiring and exciting Conference is, I am absolutely exhausted - so maybe not! Tom Watson our Deputy Leader made the traditional final speech. He attacked our opponents, made a few jokes and summed up the overall tone of the week. A new direction has been signaled positioning us as an anti austerity party with clear red water between the Tories and us. We finished with a rousing rendition of the Red Flag and Jerusalem. Only a year to go to Liverpool 2016!
Report from Conference by Linda Taylor.