Melissa Benn

The Labour Party Conference – Second Day

Day 2: Second Day of Conference

As we came out of the Women’s Conference, other Conference delegates had started to arrive at the Metropole and there was a buzz of excitement. Just walking past Len McCluskey in serious conversation with Angela Eagle and spotting others was exciting.

That evening, I attended a very interesting meeting of Labour International. There were Labour party members there from all over Europe – Berlin, Italy, Spain and Brussels. Roger Casale, Director and Founder of the New Europeans gave the first Harry Shindler lecture. Harry Shindler is now in his 90s and is determined to get the right to vote for ex-Pats and they really aren’t all Tory voters – not at all. My cousin runs a branch in Berlin and the vast majority of members supported Jeremy Corbyn. Here is an article about Harry Shindler: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13347616. I personally think it is wrong that so many people , who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years, do not have the right to vote in any general election whether in their home country – the UK or in the country where they are living. My cousin has worked in Europe as a lawyer for many years but visits the UK often and has family here and yet will be unable to vote in the European referendum which will directly affect her.

The first IMG_9367day of the Conference dawned nice and bright and I     emerged to a political discussion at breakfast in the hotel I was staying in. We had to queue for G4S to scan our passes and search our bScan 13ags but it didn’t take too long. There were many many stalls
to look at before the Conference began. Influenced by the meeting last night, my favourite was labour in Europe where they could take your photo with a message and send it out on Twitter. It was retweeted by Luke Holland almost immediately so I knew it had got out there! They could also put it on the front of a newspaper with articles of your choice. Good fun!!!

Then on into the Conference. Conference was welcomed by Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove. He had run a brilliant campaign, which is well worth checking out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbw1nseHlzU. and http://www.peterkyle.co.uk

IMG_9368The whole morning was given over to learning the lessons from the election and setting the agenda for Conference . As you can see, the first panel was very unfortunate in that it contained all men apart fro one woman who was sat on the edge. This led to some heckling by women. You can watch the Chair of Conference, Jim Kennedy here: https://youtu.be/dB66BmXX1kY Conference had only been going for about an hour when a card vote was called re the Conference Arrangement Committee Report. CAC were accused of treating Constituency Labour parties unfairly and undemocratically and not allowing certain CLPs over a formality called ’reference backs’.

There were Merit ward Presentations for long serving members and I left to go to a fringe meeting as Margaret Beckett was talking about ‘Learthumb_IMG_9372_1024ning the Lessons’ from May’s elections. Just down the road at the Odeon cinema, I attended my last Europe meeting ‘Rally for Yes!’, where among the people who spoke: Alan Johnson MP, Frances O’Grady – General Sec of the TUC, Glenis thumb_IMG_9373_1024Willmott MEP, Lisa Nandy MP and Chuka Umunna MP. It was good to see there are so many pro-Europeans in the Labour Party with excellent arguments why we should stay in.

The afternoon saw more eulogising of Harriet Harman as well as a discussion on Better Politics and I left for a walk round the Lanes after Kezia Dugdale, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party spoke.

But it was the evening events that proved the highlight of the Conference for me. I first attended a meeting of the Keir Hardie society where their book ‘What would Keir Hardie Say?’ Jeremy Corbyn had written a chapter as had Melissa Benn and both were in attendance. It was of course standing room only and Hilary Benn was standing at the back too. It was a fascinating meeting and I managed to get a copy signed by Jeremy himself. It is well worth a read and, as a result of this meeting, I am seriously thinking of setting up a Birmingham branch
of the Keir Hardie society. People shared their memories of the influence Keir Hardie had on their grandparents and of course, the meeting took place on the weekend that was the 100th anniversary of his death. Watch Jeremy Corbyn at the Keir Hardie society meeting here: https://youtu.be/FnQ7xU30C4k

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Once that meeting was over, I had just enough time to visit the West Midlands Reception and grab a Naan to keep me going. I didn’t see anyone I recognised so carried on to the LabourList rally ‘Winning Again’ at the Grand Hotel. Again standing room only but I did find myself standing next to a Birmingham Labour councillor. Eddie Izzard came on first and did his funny stuff. As a memb er of Progress, he did mention the importance of winning elections a lot. He was followed by Tristram Hunt who addressed us all as ‘Comrades” – a little witheringly I felt – and went on to talk about radical movements of the past. Other speakers included Rupa Huq MP and Claire Kober MP. But the best and most rousing speeches came from Ian Lavery MP (ex NUM) and Owen Jones. We even sang the Red Flag – yes in the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

They were doing a reasonably cheap meal that evening in the Grand Hotel and sat and chatted to a very interesting Unite official from Derby who was talking about how she had been round engaging new members in her branch Labour Party. We happened to be sitting next to Margaret Beckett as well. I wonder if she heard when I was telling my cousin how wonderful Jeremy Corbyn had been!!

Alison Gove-Humphries

October 9th 2015

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