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Conference Diary 2017

by Huntingdon CLP
Women's Officer


The Women's Conference

The sun came out to herald the start, or rather the pre-start, to conference. The hall was packed to the rafters. Unfortunately, thanks to Southern Rail, I missed the first speech from Dawn Butler, the New Shadow minister for Women and Equalities.

Next up was Jeremy himself. He roused the hall with his speech, pointing out that the PLP is now made up of 45% women and that, if parliament was all women only, Labour would be in power.
He spoke about the Jo Cox Leadership which was helping young women to be part of a training programme to prepare them for a career in parliament.
A later speaker, Rosie Duffield, was one of the products of this wonderful programme.

A common theme throughout the day was how Brexit would impact women in terms of job protection, worker rights and the environment.
Jeremy also criticised the unacceptable abuse that many MPs suffer and how Conservative policies, in particular austerity, are hurting women. He also pointed out that a staggering 86% of the cuts impact on women.
Finally, education, which should inspire our young women and encourage them to study engineering and science, still dominated by men.

The case of WASPI women will be taken forward as a votable motion by Labour. These women have seen changes to their pensionable age with insufficient notice. Many are now in poverty.

Emily Thornbury, Shadow Foreign Secretary, was next up.
She once again lifted the hall with her powerful words, stating that the election marked the biggest increase in the Labour vote since 1945.
She also despaired of a Government, who 16 months on from the EU referendum, still had no plan for Brexit.
It’s now 102 years since the first woman MP and, stated Emily, women ARE continuing to make a difference in Parliament and make their presence felt.

Stella Creasey has won the right for Northern. Irish women to have access to free abortion and Liz McKinnon has stopped the government providing training for the army in Burma.
But, sadly, she added, it is the case that millions of women are still not voting - which is particularly distressing because many are either trapped in low paid jobs or are carers for ageing parents and are most in need of having a “voice."
Emily 's parting comment was that 'humanity must surmount poverty and war."

In a break out session, a McStriker explained how an environment of bullying and long shifts without breaks had brought about strike action. She was passionate, eloquent and certainly   
deserves better.

Jeremy, Emily, Tom Watson, John McDonnell and many others dropped in on various regional receptions in the evening.


Official Start of Conference

Started the day with an excellent speech from Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott. She told delegates how since the Tories came to power, we have lost 20,000 police officers.
Labour will start to redress this by recruiting 10,000 new officers.

On Grenfell Tower she told of the shame that only a handful of permanent homes for survivors have been found - while 2,000 properties remain empty in Kensington and Chelsea.

Labour will add 3,000 extra fire fighters and the Fire Brigade will be the leading agency to approve safety standards.

Labour will launch a full inquiry into the so-called “Battle of Orgreave" during the miner’s strike in June 1984.  During the clashes between police and miners, over 55 strikers were arrested and prosecuted for rioting.  Despite claims of police provocation and violence, no police were charged for their actions.
Last October Home secretary Amber Rudd said there would be no Orgreave inquiry - Diane Abbott has pledged Labour WILL launch one.

Labour will guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and review refugee rights and accommodation, she added. 

The afternoon session included speakers on the subjects of austerity and communities.

Councils in Islington, Tyneside and Stockport are taking back control of running their own public services.  The next Labour government will rebuild our public services and put people first.
Labour’s general secretary Ian McNichol delivered a rousing upbeat speech to delegates.  We won 41% of the vote in the June election - an increase of 9 points since 2015. 
Labour enjoyed a net gain of 30 seats, mostly gained from the Conservatives.
We now have the highest proportion of women MPs in Labour's history.
We enjoyed 1.2m shares on Facebook and 29m unique users shares.  But, he insisted, the campaign continues and we remain on election standby. 

Over the summer, Jeremy Corbyn completed his 50 seat tour of the UK, targeting the most vulnerable Tory seats.
Our party now numbers 570,000 members and we are the largest political party in Europe.
Labour has received £4m in donations from its members and supporters. This was on top of union donations.
Labour is now mortgage free, debt free and loan free.

Over the past few months Labour has enjoyed some major successes over the government - forcing several big policy U- turns.
We have prevented May’s government from introducing the dementia tax, withdrawing the winter fuel allowance and legalising fox hunting, to name but a few.
Iain McNichol also said Labour will scrap the public sector pay cap. 

Thirteen million (13,000,000) people voted Labour in the June election!

We are on our way to number 10!


Monday's Speakers and Highlights

I have been bowled over by the buzz, atmosphere and camaraderie around Brighton. Everyone is united behind Jeremy Corbyn in the goal of winning the next election. And the weather’s been brilliant too.
After two superb days I wondered if things could get even better - I needn’t have worried. They did.

The day started with International Affairs, and Brexit as the opening theme.
Shadow foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry opened with the following battle cry:

"..if we stand united as a party, and if we stand on a radical manifesto, there is absolutely no seat we can't win.......".

She said there were there priorities since the Brexit referendum, Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.
Emily went on to speak passionately about the tragic conflicts and human rights issues around the world, from Venezuela to Syria. She told delegates in a packed hall:

“ In these dangerous times, our leaders need to stand up for human rights and international treaties and work with the UN for peace.  Michael Fallon (Defence Secretary) has signed a deal to increase our co- operation with the military in Saudi Arabia, whose actions in the Yemen have caused utter misery and loss of life. A Labour government will reform the way decisions are made on the export of arms, with clear rules and tests based on independent advice.”

Next up was Sir Keir Starmer (Shadow Minister for Brexit) who in a hard-hitting opening statement claimed the government was:

“.. too weak and divided to negotiate. While they argue amongst themselves, our jobs, mortgages and futures are at stake.
David Cameron gambled the future of our country to try to unite his party, Boris (Johnson) then went on to stand in front of a bus with the biggest lie plastered across it (£350m for the NHS). Theresa May is now more interested in saving her own skin, than the interests of this country.
Labour respects the result of the referendum but we are also an internationalist party which values co-operation and solidarity. We want to protect human and worker rights, the environment and social justice.
Labour put forward the idea of a transition period during which we would remain in the Customs Union and Single Market. An idea which Theresa May then put forward as her own.
She has no further answers as to how we should now proceed. The Labour approach is a flexible one. We need to consider whether we negotiate a new trade deal or remain in a type of single market.
Ultimately, a Labour government will act in the interests of the country.”

The inimitable veteran MP Dennis Skinner was up next reminding us that there are many Tory big names with a majority of under 3k, including Justine Greening (Education Secretary), Iain Duncan Smith, Amber Rudd (Home Secretary), Remainer Anna Soubrey and Zak Goldsmith.
To huge applause he insisted:

“We need fairer distribution of rail investment. For every £10-£20 invested in the south east, pennies are spent elsewhere."

Dennis recalled the Nye Bevan government which was elected in post war days when our country was on its knees. But Dennis recalled:

“We still found the money to launch a programme of council house building and, of course, the NHS.
How did they do this? The same way in which every business wishing to expand does - by borrowing the money! That is what the private sector does and this is what we need to do to improve our infrastructure and services.
When Tesco wishes to expand it doesn’t go to the Tesco safe - it borrows the money from someone else’s safe. It borrows ... and that is what we have to do. And every day when those people poke cameras into our faces and ask ‘Where’s the money coming from‘? We should tell them, ‘We’re going to borrow it’ ”.

The final speaker of the morning was John McDonnell.
His first observation was that 12 months ago, Labour was 24 points behind in the polls.
He added:

“We are now entering a new era, a fourth industrial revolution. The jobs that remain could be exploitative, dangerous and degrading, or they could be secure, fulfilling and meaningful.
We can remain a low wage, zero hour contracts economy or we can help to shape a different world.
Labour will establish a Strategic Investment Board to co-ordinate the promotion of investment, employment and wages. We will no longer have disparity between London and the rest of the country.
Decision making will be devolved to regional development banks and the metro mayors.”

He revealed how a Labour government will:

Build Crossroad for the North.
Extend HS2 to Scotland.
Deliver funding for Midlands Connect.
Electrify rail lines from Cornwall to London.
Decarbonise our economy with a publicly owned energy supply based on alternative energy sources.
Commit to building projects such as the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.
Support local entrepreneurs, co-operatives and small businesses.
Bring back ownership and control of utilities and key services, including rail, energy and Royal Mail.
Demand that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK are fully protected.
Commission a review of the scale, causes and responses to the debt left by the Tory govt.
Scrap the public sector pay cap.
Introduce the £10 living wage.
Restore basic employment.

He stated:

“ This Tory government has borrowed more than any Labour government ever has and yet FTSE 100 Chief executive's are paid 160 times more than the average worker.
Labour will not sign any more PFI schemes, which have seen profits going to companies in tax havens.”

John McDonnell concluded his speech with the following quote from Bobby Kennedy:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry.”


Tuesday's Events and Happenings

One of the things that has most impressed me about my first conference is the great enthusiasm and passion shown by delegates going up to the podium to speak.

The final morning’s debating saw various motions put forward - ranging from housing, Grenfell Tower and a Young Labour constitution.

Members of the Firefighters' union spoke with passion and anger about the horrific conditions the firefighters faced at Grenfell and how the Fire services need to be at the heart of fire standards and safety issues.

On the issues a rail safety, an Aslef representative stated that some trains are now running with only a driver to take responsibility for the hundreds of people on a train, including, the elderly, the disabled and women with children.
He told delegates:
“Train companies are putting profit before safety and people. We are in a situation where many European state railways hold the franchise to operate some of our lines, but perversely, the UK has no state railway itself.  Fares are rising annually above inflation. We must take back our railways.”

First up from the shadow cabinet to speak was Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Rebecca is one of the rising stars among our many women Labour MPs. From a struggling working class family, she saw, at first hand, the devastation caused by Thatcher's divisive policies.
She said:
“Since then, Britain has never recovered, both in terms of jobs and prosperity but also opportunities equally available throughout our country. We now have the most regionally imbalanced economy in Europe, with 40% of our economic output coming from London and the South East.
There is a worrying trend towards short term or zero hours contracts and low paid and insecure jobs. We need to reverse this and establish new industries such as those who will tackle climate change by providing energy from low carbon or renewable resources. Labour's target Is to acheive 60% of energy from such resources .
We are on the brink of the next industrial revolution. The rise of Artificial Intelligence could be a threat to jobs , but a Labour government would protect worker rights to stop exploitation and create and an innovative approach to industrial manufacturing. Ideas conceived in Britain will be manufactured and delivered here. The fourth industrial revolution is here. A Labour government will create a society with more potential than ever before.....for the many, not the few.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner reminded conference of the Tories warning of a coalition of chaos before the election they have that, with Theresa May leading it.
She told delegates:
“The Tories wanted to open new grammar schools but have thankfully abandoned this in the face of opposition. A Labour government will create a national education service, supporting the British people from cradle to grave, starting with Sure Start where Labour will give £500 million each year. There will be free, high quality care available for every 2-4 year old. Teachers will be paid a decent wage, as well as teaching assistants and support staff.”
She pledged to allocate funds to end the scandal of period poverty in schools and added:
“£8bn will be invested into new school buildings. Additional funding will be provided to ensure that our schools are safe and free from flammable cladding.  £1 billion will be invested in further education. Knowledge belongs to the many, not just the few."

"We have got the government running. Now let's get running the government."


Last Day, Corbyn's Message and Conference 2017 close

Final thoughts - inspired, united and ready .

As many delegates were proud to announce, when making their address, this was my first conference.
Young, old, veterans, first timers, students, grandparents, disabled, northerners, southerners, Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish... Momentum and Progress... all packing Brighton conference centre to the rafters. All determined, all enthused and all united around the common cause - to implement the best Labour manifesto since 1945, under the leadership and government of Jeremy Corbyn.
Even the sun shone down on us, giving the promenade an almost Cote d'Azur sparkle.

The thriving beach bars and restaurants provided the perfect vibrant backdrop to the hope and excitement in the conference centre. But in case we got carried away, a stark reminder of the size of the task ahead was only too vivid.
The degree of homelessness in Brighton second only to that of London, juxtapositioning, once again, the many versus the few.
The party speakers, from all sides of the party, were passionate and united in their support for Jeremy.
Divisions of the past have gone, many quipping that the party needs to make progress with Momentum.
The party is now debt free, mortgage free, loan free, funded by you and me, members, supporters and affiliates.
Honest money spent wisely, member talent used to create relevant social media campaigns resonating with all, enthusiasm and energy all too visible knocking on doors and campaigning in our towns in all weathers.

As Jeremy said, there were two stars in this election campaign: the manifesto and us, members, supporters and affiliates.
I would say there were a few more, not least JC himself.
We have come a long way in the last couple of years. The journey has not always been easy but we have almost arrived.
We are ready and waiting.

Today, as I traded my car in for a cleaner model I wondered whether it may have been a bit of a bubble.  
The sales manager asked if I had delayed collection due to holidays.
When I told him that I had been at the Labour Party conference, a smile crept across his face. He sat down and told me that he had a policeman friend who earned £22k per year. He could barely pay the rent and put food on the table for his family, what Theresa May would call the 'just about managing'.
The sales manager said that someone who was protecting us and keeping us safe deserved better...that conference was no bubble, it was hope, determination and the start of a new exciting era.

Let's bring it on.

Sue Foster
Women’s Officer
Huntingdon CLP
September 2017


See you all next year when Jeremy Corbyn will be PM
and running the country from 
10 Downing St.

Promoted by Mick White, of 11 Parkside, St Ives, PE27 5QJ, on behalf of the St Ives Labour Party, of the same address.