I was elected at the CLP meeting in June 2016 to be the Wells Voting Delegate to the National Conference in Liverpool. As well as myself as voting delegate there were also 4 members of the constituency who paid for their own conference pass and made the journey to Liverpool.
The Conference started on the Saturday with the announcement of the Leadership contest and the news that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected as leader with a bigger mandate and a clear majority in every section of the party.
The announcement was followed by the women’s conference which by all accounts was a very positive experience for everyone involved.
Early on Saturday evening there was a South West Regional reception where Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, spoke about election success in the Southwest and the need to continue the drive to get more labour councillors and MP’s elected in the Southwest in the coming 5 years. Jeremy Corbyn arrived later and was warmly welcomed by the South West delegates. There was also a surprise visit by the actor Paul McGann (the I in that classic film “Withnal and I”) and his wife, who are involved in labour politic in Bristol.
After the reception we relocated to the BlackE site, a community centre/reclaimed church where the Momentum Group was holding a week long arts and politics event. During the evening we heard from local Liverpool grass roots activists:
Whether talking about the intelligence of working class women, the impact grassroots organisation can make in people’s lives or what it feels like to become a refugee because of your politics or sexual orientation every story reminded us why it is so important that a Real Labour Government gets back into power.
On Sunday the main conference formally opened with a review of the year and reports from the National Executive Committee and the National Policy Forum. There was some disagreement over the processes by which changes to the rules of the party were planned to be made and this went on for the first three mornings of the conference. Generally however the conference was happy with nearly all the policy reports put forward and fully backed the proposals and speeches of all the members of the policy forum and the Shadow Cabinet. Highlights for me were the speeches by Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union and of course the rousing speech on the final day by Jeremy Corbyn.
One of the most significant votes that happened in my view was the adoption by the conference, and therefore the party as a whole, of the ten policy pledges that Jeremy Corbyn had announced during his leadership election. (These can be found here). They are brief statements at the moment but they are the structure upon which future policy will be made and give a good idea of the direction of travel that the party now intends to take.
During the conference I managed to have conversations with a large number of members from across Britain and gained a much better understanding of the shared concerns and those specific to their areas. This included the councillor group from Dudley who are fighting hard against the rise of UKIP in their area, delegates from East Anglia whose situation is virtually a mirror image of our own, delegates from Leicester who represent many in the Asian community, in addition to Northern, London, Scottish and Welsh delegates and the representatives from Australia who were there as observers for the Australian Labour party. I thought this was one of the most useful aspects of conference for me personally as I gained a much broader picture of the work of the grassroots across Labour.
Conference Report by Clare Smith