I was lucky enough to attend the Annual Party Conference in Liverpool this September as a visitor..

It was an amazing and unique experience- it felt almost surreal to be completely surrounded by fellow Labour members, Labour elected officials, Labour regalia and even Labour merchandise. It was certainly like nothing I have experienced before.

I also left feeling more confident than ever that Labour are ready to take up the reigns of Government- and to deliver real, material change, as soon as they do.

Senior Party figures all made impressive speeches. Early in the week, Diane Abbott and Angela Rayner both set the stall out well. I was pleased to hear Rayner commit to bringing all Academies back into accountable control.

John McDonnell announced new policies to democratise the workplace, and to give workers some control over their own destiny. He also reiterated his determination to bring utilities and services back into public ownership, to end this era of private profiteering.

I also saw McDonnell at two Fringe Events: one against Austerity, the other a discussion on models of public ownership. I was particularly impressed to hear about the work he and his team have been doing, to communicate with and develop policy alongside small and medium sized businesses, community groups and members of the public. It is clear to me that the leadership understand the scale of the tasks facing us, as a Party and as society, and are well prepared to find solutions.

Emily Thornberry delivered a very moving, emotive speech. She asserted, quite rightly, that socialists must remember our incredible history of standing up for fairness and freedom. We may feel demoralised when we see conservative populism in the ascendancy, as it sometimes seems to be today. But, as Thornberry described so evocatively, we must not lose sight of our aims. Her reference to the International Brigade of the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War was so inspiring that I felt moved to buy a printed copy of the speech.

On the subject of bringing people together, I was pleased to see how Conference united behind the majority of Motions. Where there were disagreements, debate was carried out in good faith. Even on the subject of Brexit, a compromise was reached. The eventual Composite motion was, in my opinion, imperfect. But that hundreds of delegates, all, I would imagine, with differing opinions, were able to produce a single resolution was good to see.

In addition, I had a very good time taking in Fringe Events away from the Main Conference proceedings, which covered a great range of policy areas. I attended one on the state of Social Democracy in Europe today, at which I actually asked a question to the Panel. Topics also included the future of Trade Unions, Academy schools, Palestine and the Middle East, and ‘Reclaiming Internationalism.’

Conference closed in high spirits with the Leader’s Speech. Corbyn’s words were about as rousing as any speech which covers every eminent issue of the day could be. Once Corbyn had finished, Conference sang ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘Jerusalem,’ before filing out to the sound of ‘Children of the Revolution,’ which made for a cheerful atmosphere. There was definitely an sense of positivity and optimism in the room.

Now, of course, it is back to work in our constituencies and branches. Hopefully we will all return with a renewed sense that all we do serves an aim- that we are working towards a shared better future. I would definitely recommend visiting Conference, if it is possible, to anyone- especially other young members- who want to learn more about the Party and important issues. With dozens of Debates and Events every day, there is something for everyone.

Toby Jarman
2 October 2018

Toby at 2018 Conference
Toby at 2018 Conference
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