Having just returned home from my first Labour Party Annual Conference I thought other members might like to know what to expect if you are considering going in the future.
First finding yourself in the company of 13,000 like-minded people all with the desire to elect a Labour Government is an unusual experience when you live in Norfolk. Add into that the fantastic setting of the City of Liverpool, ‘the socialist republic’ and from day one you are immersed in a vibrant and exciting atmosphere.
We had arrived on Friday so were able to attend the Women’s Conference on Saturday. For the first time CLPs had been given the opportunity to submit motions to Women’s Conference with one being sent forward to the Annual Conference agenda. ‘Women and the Economy’ had overwhelming support and was put forward.
I had little idea that there would be so many events to chose from in addition to the conference itself. With over 450 Fringe events plus training events running from 7.00 m to 9.30 pm at numerous venues it is difficult to know where to start. I should have studied the Conference magazine more thoroughly before I left home to decide beforehand which meetings to attend, although those offering free food proved popular as it meant you could combine eating with debate. Each fringe meeting I attended consisted of a panel of experts and MPs delivering a talk on the subject with competent chairs then opening the topic up to questions from the audience.
Conference was held in a huge hall with seating at the rear for visitors and the rest was for delegates who each had an allocated seat. The platform for the top table and the lectern for speakers was so far away that binoculars would have proved useful. Jeremy Corbyn had been seated 40 minutes on my first day before I realised he was there. Fortunately, there are three massive screens for viewing the proceedings together with sign language interpreters.
I perhaps should have also studied the procedural language involved in conference as ‘composites’, ‘points of order’, and CAC reports were unfamiliar to me although the terminology slowly began to make sense. What really surprised me was just how much time was given over to delegates to debate the proposed motions. On Sunday afternoon in a 2-hour debate on rule changes, 45 delegates were asked to take the stand to speak. Many were first time delegates although you wouldn’t have that known from the passion and competence with which many delivered their speeches. Many stories were harrowing, from working parents trying to feed children to a union delegate who had lost his son to suicide, personal stories that brought home to me just how many people are struggling under Tory austerity. Many of the youth delegates were inspirational and their commitment to elect a Labour Government shone through. As an added bonus our delegate Marianne was chosen despite being seated at the back of the delegates. She confidently pointed out a few facts about Academies that are affecting the education of children attending them. Her speech was well received and I’m sure she feels proud to have represented Broadland Labour so responsibly.
Every member of the Shadow cabinet that I heard speak came across as committed to wanting the best for people and communities and were eager to get started on Rebuilding Britain for the many not the few. I felt both Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry were exceptional.
Finally, to Wednesday and the climax of conference with the Leader’s speech. We were in our seats by 8.50am for the morning session before Jeremy took the stage at 12.30. If I thought the 2017 manifesto was far reaching the next goes even further with ‘a radical plan to rebuild and transform our country’, demanding public services with ‘fairness and humanity’ at their heart, and a ‘green jobs revolution’ to create ‘400,000 skilled jobs.’ Each new proposal was welcomed with fervent applause, chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ and all the hall on their feet several times. To finish we sang Jerusalem and the Red Flag with our Youth officer Toby knowing all the words to both songs. If that wasn’t rousing enough, we filed out of the hall with T Rex’s hit from the 70’s booming out:
“But you won’t fool the children of the Revolution,
No, you won’t fool the children of the Revolution
No! No! No!”
I shall keep that refrain ringing in my ears as I pound the streets of Broadland door knocking for a new Labour Government, for a Revolution is just what it feels like and I hope you will join me, so we can make this dream a reality.