Thursday, 29 September 2011
Reflections on the 2011 Labour Party Conference
from Cllr Susan Press who has just returned from Liverpool where she was a local Labour Party delegate
I have just returned from Liverpool and Labour Party Conference. This year I was lucky enough to be a delegate and I'll be back next year as a Visitor.
There are some I know who were deeply disappointed by some aspects of Ed Miliband's speech. The defence of right to buy and end of the 70 per cent tax rate were not applauded by the hall. Stony silence is I think the term.
But anyone considering tearing up their Party card sould also consider the reality. Miliband has been lambasted by the right-wing media for even daring to suggest sharp business practice and greed culture is wrong.
And whatever diplomatic words were issued by the trade union leaders after the speech, they made it clear inside the conference to repeated standing ovations and loud applause that the strikes on November 30 must be supported by Labour.
The pressure is most definitely on from UNITE's Len McCluskey, UNISON's Dave Prentis and Paul Kenny of the GMB.
The new General Secretary, Iain McNichol, not the favoured choice of the leadership, proudly stated he would never cross a picket line. Imagine that in the Blairite years?
Young delegates like Rhiannon Rose spoke out from the heart against tuition fees. In the rule change debate, delegate after delegate called out for more Party democracy.
It has never been easy being on the left in the Labour Party. But I was heartened by the success of our LRC fringe with over 170 grassroots activists (including Tony Benn, Mark Serwotka and Len McCluskey and John McDonnell MP) there to discuss honestly and often movingly why the fight within the Party must continue.
Whatever you think of Miliband he is not, as he said to some loud applause, Tony Blair. If David Miliband had become Leader, the trade union link would by now be well in the process of dissolution. The Party would be over.
New Labour never liked the unions. Miliband is wrong not to speak out in support of strike action. But under pressure from them, he did not condemn strike action either in his Leader's speech.
Small beer I know. But There is only one way to change things and move the Party towards democratic socialism. And that is to get stuck in.
We need more young delegates, more local councillors, more comrades prepared to seek selection as PPCs. Without them, nothing will change.
One of the most moving speeches at our rally came from a comrade who was Liverpool Labour in the 1980s. He said (and I can't say it like he did) that we must never walk away, that we owe it to our children and grandchildren not to give up.
And in the face of the most vicious attack for decades on the workng-class since Thatcher, what good will it do us to abandon our Party. Whatever its faults, the Labour Party is still my Party. I know dozens of committed activists and members - and they don't all agree with me. But they are still comrades.
And let's not forget who the real enemies are. And what they are doing to our society. 18 months after the General Election, we have 60,000 more members. By Manchester 2012, it's our duty to ensure we have thousands more by staying true to our values and doing our best to make Labour once again the "People's Party."
Change never came from leaders, but from below. so let's get to it