By Beth Johnson, Harrow West CLP youth delegate
(We also recommend this report of the conference by James McAsh on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy site)
This year I was a first time attendee of London Regional Conference. My own CLP had submitted policy on housing and I was looking forward to this and other debates. As well as debate of policy there were many workshops. I especially enjoyed the one on Grenfell, as it gave me insight into things I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find that all ‘fringes’ were quite so informative. In the education workshop many young people brought up the issue that I have with education, which is the constant focus on grades at the expense of the mental health of students. This and other issues raised were not addressed properly by the two women on the panel. This made it feel more like a forum rather than a workshop to find a solution to problems – we didn’t feel our voices were heard.
While the conference was slightly chaotic, it made for a much more democratic atmosphere – after all democracy means debate. The cheering, clapping and feet stamping that occurred much more often than I expected was such a nice way to bring everyone together. It reminded me that even at a time when the Tories seem to be destroying everything good about this country, we are ready to fight back.
Both Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry’s speeches emphasised this and for me, someone still learning so much about politics and the party, it was inspiring to see two women so defiant and determined to bring about change.
Unity was a recurrent theme across the two days; Sadiq Khan’s suggestion that we are now a united party in his Q&A on Day one was challenged forcefully. Jon Lansman was more candid in his assessment at the Momentum fringe meeting. His assertion that to grow the party must stop “papering over the cracks” by avoiding the challenging debates that are needed within the party rang true. There remain differences of opinion that must be addressed – the Labour Party has been, and should remain, a broad church. Pushing people into an artificial conformity and projecting a false sense of unity only stores up problems that will have to be addressed sooner or later. For example, how can we move on in unity while some of our members remain expelled simply for being socialists!
During the conference the point was made that the failure of the Parliamentary Labour Party to support Corbyn or the progressive agenda he and McDonnell articulated cost us dearly in the General Election.
What struck me about my first London Regional Conference was that although there was genuine disagreement and debate there was definitely an overwhelming sense of common purpose. The two days buzzed with positive energy and I truly believe we are on the road to creating a London and a Britain for the many not the few.
Key things that happened at London Labour conference:
• Conference arrangements committee is now elected by the delegates and not the Steering committee
• Radical motions were passed with strong commitments including
On health: for NHS and Social Care systems in London which are properly integrated and accountable, publicly owned and adequately funded; to scrap the Tories’ pay-cap unconditionally; exposing the Tories’ STPs as vehicles for cutting vital services instead of prioritising patient care; to restore nursing-students’ bursaries; to recognise EU nationals’ crucial skills in London’s NHS; to tackle the causes of Londoner’ ill-health, e.g. poverty, the housing crisis and poor air-quality; to oppose closures (or ‘reconfigurations’) of London’s services without proper local consultation and consent. Conference calls upon the London Labour Party to agree that clinically driven integrated solutions are urgently needed to overturn dangerously cruel austerity ideology. We will prioritise the health and wellbeing of Londoners in all areas of policy.
On housing: conference passed policy for rent controls and for rights for council tenants to be guaranteed rehousing on the same site after any redevelopment and for redevelopments to be subject to a ballot of all tenants. The retention of public land and direct investment in building and maintenace work.
We need to make sure London Labour Party’s know about and stick to these policies.
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