THIS YEAR, FOR THE SECOND TIME, I will be a conference delegate. What can we expect? What I would like is to get the attention firmly focused on maintaining the leftward movement and the party’s total commitment to creating a society that works for the many and not the few.
Perhaps I am naïve to have been shocked by the relentlessness and baselessness of the right wing’s attacks on the party, backed by the mainstream media. They were forced to stop for a short period during and after the 2017 election when, with the most progressive manifesto for at least a generation and despite nearly two years of relentless attacks, Labour almost unseated the Tory government. It seems they were just drawing breath.
We felt it necessary to create Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), which was launched at the 2017 conference to great acclaim. At conference and in the year that has followed, our growing group of volunteer activists has been placed firmly on the map. In the face of the constant pressure, many party members have told us how much they value JVL, especially the information on the website, for our rational argument and analysis.
We have been speaking at Labour and trade union meetings up and down the country and given countless TV, newspaper and radio interviews. We have challenged the biased reporting of most media outlets, calling out, for example, their constant interruptions while we are being interviewed, compared with the usually polite and respectful listening, and at most gentle probing, of those who disagree with us and are heavily critical of Jeremy Corbyn.
Lies are left unchallenged (such as that most countries in the world have adopted the IHRA in full, to say nothing of the idea that “Labour is rife with antisemitism”).
There has been vilification of our organisation and leaders, which we know is just a small taste of what has been thrown at Jeremy Corbyn and others. As well as actively countering the dominant narrative about antisemitism, JVL members are activists in their local parties, many are delegates to their general committees, many hold officer positions and at least three of us have been elected as local councillors. Our interests are obviously as wide as the wider party membership.
At 2017 conference there were standing ovations for those of us, including Jeremy Corbyn, finally raising the importance of Palestinian rights from the conference platform. We thought the tide was beginning to turn, that the attacks would stop, or at least reduce, and that the PLP would realise the importance of backing the twice elected leader. This was not what happened. The NEC, under intolerable pressure, adopted the IHRA with all examples.
So what does this year hold? I hope that we can focus on policy and progressing positive changes resulting from the Democracy Review. We must make sure that our changed Labour Party continues to grow stronger.
What matters now are our key policies on housing, on the economy, the NHS, education, against austerity and all the policies that the many in our country need.
We must also argue from the perspective of internationalists, committed to justice and freedom for the oppressed peoples of the world. It means making sure that Palestinian voices are heard - and that we use the caveats and free speech protections in the code of conduct to tell the truth about what is happening in Israel and Palestine.
In Hastings, street homelessness has almost tripled under this government. Tenants are too often made homeless by Section 21 no fault evictions and cannot find new homes because many landlords refuse to take people on Universal Credit and we, like most councils, do not have the housing that is needed to provide affordable and secure homes.
Labour has nothing to fear from open debate and critical analysis of our policies. It is because the Tories and the right wing of our own party have no counter-arguments that they resort to slurs and personal attacks. This threatens democracy and risks destroying hope for people suffering - and dying - under this pernicious Tory regime. This in turn could feed into a growing far right. The stakes are really that high!
Hastings and Rye CLP; delegate to Labour Party Conference 2018; co-chair, Jewish
Voice for Labour,