A pernicious and probably controversial issue is the unstoppable adulation and hero worship of Jeremy Corbyn.
Not all of the adulation is the fault of the enthusiastic delegates in the room. The Labour machine now appears to be cashing in on Corbynmania with a range of Corbyn-themed items.
It is very impressive that a whole crowd at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury are so enthused they chant his name, but do we really need a seven minute delay in his conference speech to chant, or the chanting of his name when other Shadow Ministers speak? Or delegates taking valuable time to ask pointless self congratulatory questions about the importance of Corbyn?
All of this must stop.
Fighting for free movement
Conference delegates voted not to prioritise Brexit as an area to discuss, and so there was no opportunity to discuss the Labour Campaign for Free Movement’s motion and others on this issue.
It appears a coordinated effort from Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the Leader’s Office ensured only areas where there was broad agreement were discussed.
This is shameful. The idea that disagreements should not be discussed for fear of disunity are wrong.
There is wide disagreement in the party on Brexit and the leadership has no clear policy. Keir Starmer’s speech impressively used a lot of words to say absolutely nothing.
Conference was only able to discuss Brexit in reference to a very bland National Executive statement, with no chance to vote on anything. The leadership may think it is being clever by remaining evasive on the issue but members have now had no say on what Labour’s policy should be on one of the biggest issues in politics.
A motion defending free movement might well have passed. Speeches in favour of free movement and received strong support. The leadership of the Party and of Momentum are split on the issue.
Opponents of debate denounced the proponents of free movement as being universally in favour of arbitrarily overturning the result of the Brexit vote.
First time at Conference
By a conference delegate
One of the most exciting outcomes of the conference was the motion passed which committed to repeal the Trade Union Act and anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s, arguing for unions to be “freed from legal shackles” and for workers to have an “effective right to strike”.
This part of the motion came from a model motion from The Clarion which is great because previous attempts to introduce similar policy have been blocked in compositing. I think we need to build on this, by pushing for these policies to become a central part of Labour’s campaigning.
What was bad was the successful attempt by the leadership of the major left-wing factions to prevent us from debating and voting on a strong stand to defend and extend free movement and migrant rights. They feared this debate could split the left or embarrass the leadership, and some of them oppose free movement. We were left with a fairly non-committal statement from the National Executive.
Aat a time when the dominant narrative and the direction of the Labour leadership is towards restricting free movement, that was a serious failure.
That there is a significant disagreement on this issue is a reason why it is more important to debate it openly and at conference, and that it is more important to debate than areas where 99% of delegates will vote in agreement with the Labour leadership. It is now even more important than ever for us to campaign boldly inside and outside of labour for free movement and migrant’s rights.
The conference was very big, left-wing and often vibrant. On issues such as NHS and schools delegates successfully pushed for the party to have a bolder position. We also elected left-wing representatives to the National Constitutional Committee. Many left wing delegates saw and felt all of this and felt elated; many told me how amazing the conference is.
After many years of the right-wing calling most of the shots at conference, this is understandable; but my vision for conference and for the Labour Party is much bolder, so the victories for me were bitter-sweet.
My vision is of a lively, genuinely democratic and sovereign conference, and it still has a long way to go in terms of democratic structures and culture. Momentum, as the largest faction, and the largest faction on the left, needs to be democratised. From what I heard this conference was a good step forward democratically from last year, so hopefully we’re heading in the right direction!
Next year we’ll have a more left-wing Conference Arrangements Committee, and good rule-changes have been remitted to a democratic review, so we should keep up the pressure.
Changing the rules
Local parties who submitted rule change motions were asked to remit.
Three rule changes endorsed by the National Executive were put to conference and all were passed.
Under one rule change, the National Executive Committee will now have one extra trade union delegate, and three new members elected directly by members in the Constituency Labour Party section. Another rule change decreased the threshold of nominations for Leader (from MPs and MEPs) from 15% to 10% for nominations.
All local parties agreed to remit their rule changes apart from Brighton Pavilion who insisted on pushing forward with their rule change to remove the “contemporary” restrictions on motions that can be submitted to conference. That rule change was voted down despite being backed by a majority of local party delegates.
Labour Party members have been critical of the way that slates for the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance are drawn up, especially the inclusion of figures like Ann Black, who would not describe herself as being on the left of the party.
Momentum has now asked people interested in standing for the NEC to fill in an application and has given them just two days before the applications will be looked at by officers of the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group.
It is unclear what the criteria will be to select these candidates, but they are very likely to get onto the National Executive if they receive Momentum’s endorsement