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 results of the National Executive Committee elections were disappointing. A clean sweep for the Momentum-backed slate will not be good for plurality, nor party democracy. But we should be proud of the six people Progress and Labour First supported. Ellie Reeves and Johanna Baxter doubled their votes and leave the NEC with a great list of achievements to their name. Bex Bailey polled 67,000 votes and ran a superb campaign. Parmjit Dhanda, Luke Akehurst and Peter Wheeler did well and should be proud. When it feels like you are the lone voice in a party meeting, remember that this ballot shows there are tens of thousands of members who want Labour return to its winning ways. (more…)
The events of last weekend were historic and unifying. The changes will be meaningful and, let us hope, lasting. Giving 2.7 million trade unionists the chance to step closer to the party their forebears helped create is no small thing. And asking the nine million people who stayed loyal in 2010 when the party got the second-worst electoral thumping since 1918 should chart a new opportunity for the people’s party. All make it more likely we win the coming general election.
Missing from the reform package, and Refounding Labour before it, is the necessary changes to the committee that is now to implement the Collins proposals, the NEC. (more…)