All members can now read the FULL conference report, including a forward from Peter Kyle MP, compiled by our 2017 delegates and edited by Heather McKenzie, by clicking here
Members can read the introduction below
An estimated 13,000 delegates attended this year’s conference. The atmosphere was electric at the first conference since Labour’s much better than expected performance in the June general election. Dennis Skinner called it one of the best conferences he had attended and marvelled at the fact the conference floor was full on the Sunday.
An accompanying Fringe, numbering more than 200 events, along with The World Transformed Conference opposite the Brighton Centre, created a festival-style celebration of socialist policies, Labour’s achievements and its ambitions. And it all kicked off, following the women’s conference, with a rally at the Level, during which Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and others spoke. Organisers estimated a crowd of 6000.
One of the striking features of the conference was the decision to allow more time for speakers from the conference floor. This created a really participatory feel to proceedings. Members and union reps from across the country were able to speak about their experiences and share their views with the delegates and visitors. A wide variety of views across many subjects were aired. There were appalling stories about the impact of almost a decade of austerity on our communities, particularly on vulnerable people such as the ill, elderly and those with mental health issues. Our delegation was lucky enough to have three speakers on the first two days. On the final day of debate two of the delegation tried to attract the attention of the chairperson but failed.
The debates on the floor were supplemented with policy seminars held in the Brighton Metropole Hotel. This gave those who didn’t get to speak on the conference floor the opportunity to raise their points with MPs. These forums consist of cabinet ministers, who give short speeches, and who respond at the end; otherwise it is a series of speakers from the floor making short points. Hopefully it feeds into the work of the National Policy Forum (NPF).
Getting to speak is difficult and the issue was raised by some delegates. It is likely that the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC), which runs Conference, will consider whether a fairer system can be found to ensure those who want to speak get the chance. At Conference, it was a case of trying to attract the attention of the chairperson as best you could. Some people had very innovative approaches but it was suggested that the less able – and less exhibitionist – are somewhat discriminated against. Darryl Telles observed the relative lack of BAME delegates and consequently speakers taken from the floor. As CLPs have grown they have exacerbated the situation by sending larger all-white delegations to Conference, he believes. The Party should consider applying proportionality rules when selecting delegates in the same way trades unions do. Reserving just one place out of 11 isn’t good enough, he adds.
A notable feature of the speakers from CLPs was how many were first-time delegates (and by definition, first-time speakers). Each was greeted with a rousing cheer, which must have encouraged others in the audience who were reticent to speak to come forward. The warm and welcoming atmosphere meant that by the final debate – on health and social care – scores of delegates were willing to speak. Also very encouraging were the numbers of young people speaking, including the very passionate and articulate 16-year-Lauren Stocks, who told of her experiences of sitting GCSEs and the effect of Tory education policies on her and her fellow students. Definitely a star of the future.
All of our delegation was present on the conference floor for the debates and votes. We also divided the policy seminars between us to ensure we had full coverage. Debates were held on the following themes:
• Protecting communities
• Brexit and internationalism
• Economy, business and trade
• Jobs, living standards and equalities
• Investing in our future
• Health and care
Some of our delegates, including Clare Brown, also attended training sessions relevant to their various roles within the branches or other groups, such as the Women’s Forum. Thanks again to our delegates for the following in-depth reports on their areas of expertise and interest.