Jill Spedding – Labour Conference Report – 23rd to 26th September 2018
This was my first time at conference and to be honest it’s all a bit daunting to start with.
The first thing that happens as you enter the hall is you’re given that day’s Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) report. The day 1 report was over 60 pages! They got shorter – but not much – by Wednesday it was still 15 pages just for a half day.
These reports contain all the details of the what, when and how of the day’s business; the agenda and its timings, motions and rule changes, voting, debates – the opening speaker and how many speakers from the floor would be taken (approx 230 in total). Somehow you have to make sense of all this in the few minutes before it all starts and, although I managed some notes, when I come to look at them now they don’t make a lot of sense. But all is not lost, many of the speeches are on YouTube and, if there’s a speech I’d recommend, it’s Dawn Butler; both the one she gave to the Women’s conference and the main conference. (My hot tip for future Leader.)
It all improves as the week goes on, you remember the quickest route to the Arena and which door to go in when you get there, the CAC reports downgrade from scary to merely challenging, and you finally start to find time to think about what you’re going to eat at the end of the day after whatever evening meeting/entertainment you go to. Usually F&C at the Lobster pot for me.
The main debates were:
- Party Democracy
- Women’s Conference Motion
- Financial Reports
- Wales Report
- Public Investment and Ownership
- Scotland Report
- European Parliamentary Labour Party Report
- Social Security and Skills
- CLP Rule Amendments
- Brexit and the Economy
- Security at Home and Abroad
- Tackling Inequalities
The contributions to the debates ranged through passionate and heartfelt to calm and considered, and all were intelligent and well informed. In the main they were listened to respectfully except for a brief spell of booing and jeering in one debate which was, fortunately, short lived and not repeated. It was great to listen to so many excellent speakers from all the different sections of the party and to see how democratic it is, no one was afraid to say what they thought, no matter which party luminary they were following! I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to such a diverse event before, never been in one room with such a diversity of people, it was just brilliant.
There were, inevitably, media mutterings about splits and lack of unity but we had something like 1,300 delegates. It’s a big ask to expect that number to spend four and a half days together without having a ruck about something and disagreement is creative – it makes us question our beliefs and think of better ways to get our arguments across. And, anyway, if there wasn’t some dispute we’d only get accused of stage managing it.
By the end of it all I felt that, although as individuals some were divided on details on the overall policies and strategy of the Party, we were united and, most importantly, we were all united in our aim to win the next election.
Notes on selected speeches
John Healey on Housing:
We have 120,000 children in temporary accommodation and rough sleeping has doubled in the last 10 years.
These people are caught in the wider housing crisis of broken markets and rising rents.
Labour will guarantee the next Labour government will be the most radical since the post war government.
The horror of Grenfell happened under a minister who sees fire regulations as red tape. Survivors were victims before the fire and feel like second class citizens. Nearly half are still not permanently rehoused and 400 blocks are still clad in combustible material.
People need safe decent places to call home and in government Labour will set up a Housing Department to achieve this:
- Ending rough sleeping within a parliament.
- Controlled rents
- Putting a stop on rogue landlords
- Give opportunities to first time buyers
- 1 million truly affordable new homes
- Living rent homes set at 1/3rd of average local incomes.
- Within the 1st year legislation on new rights to control rents and improve conditions.
- Levy on 2nd homes used as holiday homes.
Angela Rayner on Education:
Our National Education Service will:
- End academies and “free” schools – they neither improve standards or empower parents and communities.
- Public schools back into mainstream with democratic control.
- £8bn to build and renovate schools
- Currently £1/2bn in agency fees is going to supply teachers agencies.
- The National Education Service (NES) will be inclusive, pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and disabilities will be saved from falling through the net.
- New public state nurseries will end early years failures.
- Further Education will be free.
Poverty leaves people not just penniless but powerless so the new NES will be about empowering people.
Keir Starmer on Brexit:
Jobs and economy must come first.
EU citizens are not bargaining chips.
We need a customs union and no hard border in Ireland.
There are huge decisions coming-up which need to be voted on. The Tory civil war is risking our future prosperity – even Jacob Rees-Mogg now admits it will take our country 50 years to recover.
We’re not about frustrating Brexit but we need to stop a disastrous Brexit or a no deal Brexit.
Dawn Butler on Women and Equalities:
The Tories are destroying the equal rights previous Labour governments and trade unions have fought for. 2018 was the year Tories’ institutionally racist policies were exposed by the Windrush scandal and the women on Universal credit who stand to lose £1,400 pa. And we’ve seen hate crime increase across all areas.
The next Labour Government will create a Women’s and Equality Department to create an equalities strategy ensuring equality throughout the machinery of government, including:
- Equalities proofing legislation, before, during and after implementation to ensure Windrush can never happen again.
- New law to enable cases to be brought on multiple grounds of discrimination.
- Strengthen Equalities and and Human Rights legislation
- End Period Poverty with free sanitary products available in schools, colleges and women’s hostels.
- Up to 10 days paid leave for absences due to domestic violence (DV).
- Sign language to be given full legal status.
We are not just about spending money but about fairness and we must measure our success but by the obstacles we overcome.
Many people in our country would like to fight back but every way they turn there are obstacles. We must keep these people in mind and fight for a Labour government that will be the most progressive and aspirational in history. It can be done!
Why shouldn’t the richest pay a bit more so the poorest can have a bit more!