Labour Party Conference: First Impressions

Labour Party Conference: First Impressions

ALICE: “I’VE BEEN A MEMBER of the Labour Party for a couple of years and keen to promote their policies that will help young people after years of austerity. At our recent AGM, Cathy supported me to stand as youth officer and I was delighted to be elected. As someone dealing with the vagaries of a zero-hour contract, the inability to pay off debts associated with higher education and living at home with little prospect of affording my own property, I feel that I understand many of the challenges facing young people, particularly young women. When the opportunity arose to stand as delegate to Labour Party conference, I felt this was a great opportunity to kick-start my role as youth officer, immerse myself in the workings and policies of the party and network with other youth members.

The experience was quite overwhelming, with so much to take in. I could have done with more support and briefing from the regional office in addition to the South East region briefing in London and the first day’s hectic meeting prior to the start of conference. Being seated with the rest of our CLP delegates would have been helpful – but I understand that this was a one-off arrangement and will be addressed next year.

This aside, the atmosphere was exciting and inspiring. As a delegate, I felt it important to stay in the hall, and so missed out on quite a few useful fringe and policy events during the day but fitted in as many as possible in the evenings. Highlights for me were the LRC fringe meeting and the Labour Campaign Group rally. These put into context much of what I have heard being discussed by Cathy and other longstanding socialists in our local party, and I took the speeches as a call to action and getting more organised.

Having heard many of the speakers at conference, it was interesting to see them in a different context – sharing their personal experiences, views and passion.

I came home very keen to understand more about our rules, processes and policy-making. My focus now will be to work more closely with Cathy as our women’s officer, bring motions on behalf of young people locally and concentrate on organising local, relevant campaigns.”

CATHY: “It was a real pleasure to support Alice at her first conference, and to share this historic occasion through her eyes. It also added weight to the need for broader political education – as John McDonnell explained in the opening event of The World Transformed.

Overall, conference was a positive experience for the left this year. It was disappointing that much of the output of the Democracy Review was diluted or shelved – so we must act to ensure that key recommendations are addressed throughout the year or at conference 2019.

Despite our narrowly failed attempt on day one to overturn the agenda - which would have enabled a debate on open selection – we made inroads in a number of key areas, particularly on the issues of Palestine and increased internal democracy for women, BAME and disabled members. In principle, it also seems a good step that conference will have a set of consistent standing orders.

The unequivocal support for Palestine was a high point with thousands of Palestinian flags being waved throughout the conference hall. Words can’t adequately describe these moments and it was wonderful to see so many young people uplifted by the positive energy in the hall.

Momentum did themselves no favours with their contradictory and vacillating guidance to delegates on multiple issues – and it was clear that this guidance was largely ignored by CLP delegates. The lack of focus from Momentum and the lack of support to new delegates from Labour Party regional teams opens up an opportunity for the LRC to launch a targeted education programme as part of our preparation for 2019 in Brighton.”

Alice is the newly appointed Youth Officer for Wantage CLP. Cathy is Women’s Officer, Wantage CLP.