Conference in Liverpool was a success for moderates
—The honest truth is that I had not been looking forward to Labour party conference this year. 2015 had been the first year I had not enjoyed conference, not because of the leadership result, but because suddenly Brighton went from being friendly to alien. Those who were abusive online decided to be so in person, and my staff were treated in not dissimilar ways, just for doing their job. Added to this year’s trepidation was the exhaustion from a summer of Saving Labour, a National Executive Committee campaign, and a leadership contest that went straight into a conference where those behind Momentum and the so-called Campaign for Labour Party Democracy wanted to change our party beyond recognition.
There was some, I hope understandable, foreboding. In the lead-up to conference, Progress and Labour First – working together like never before – travelled the country on our Road to Conference tour. Back to the basics of how conference works, what motions would be up for discussion, why moving from a 15 per cent to five per cent threshold for nominations for the leadership – known as the ‘McDonnell amendment’ – would be so catastrophic. I always enjoy getting out of London for our various events series in British cities – invariably run by brilliant Labour councils – but often these ‘moderate meet-ups’ were as much about hearing the stories of abuse being levelled at long-standing constituency officers, Jewish members and women councillors and members of parliament as they were about policy and procedure. I called the editorial of a previous edition of Progress ‘heart-breaking times’ – little else brings it home more than when members who campaigned for Michael Foot are close to tears because a small number of supporters of the current leader shout them down in meetings and intimidate them into silence. And it is not everyone, just some. Often not ‘new members’ but those returning to relive the 1980s (and the same sad outcome). (more…)
The home affairs select committee released a seminal report yesterday. It is the culmination of work that started on 12 April 2016. The incidents with Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and Jacqui Walker all came to light or took place after the inquiry was announced. Unless the committee had some great insight that the former mayor of London was due another controversy involving Britain’s Jewish community, it is hard to suggest – as some have done – that this is part of some establishment plot to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
The report is thorough, thoughtful and is the unanimous view of the committee. This should give everyone – particularly the Labour party and the National Union of Students – cause for reflection. A sober analysis is required, not a hot-headed response. (more…)
Tomorrow Shami Chakrabarti’s review into antisemitism and how it should be tackled is to be presented. I am told everyone is seeing the report tomorrow for the first time – obviously we the party members, and the Jewish community, but the leader’s office, the general secretary and the National Executive Committee too. It should be a seminal moment for Labour. The opportunity is welcome to draw a line under Ken Livingstone’s ugly statements and the career that went before that has been littered with offensive remarks to Jews. But it should do much more. It should chart a way for Labour to move from the bottom of the pack on these issues to somewhere in the premier league. (more…)