Tottenham Labour Party members elected me to be one of their delegates at Conference. This meant that I had to be in the Conference hall on the morning of the first day of Conference (Sunday 23 September) to vote to decide which priority motions Conference will debate. At the crack of dawn, I picked up my fellow delegates from different points in Tottenham. After dealing with a slightly deflated tyre in my car, I drove as fast as I could and ensured that we were in Liverpool and in the Conference hall by 10.00am.
This was the biggest Conference in Labour Party’s history with a record number of party activists from across the country. The debates in the Conference hall were engaging and the atmosphere electrifying. On the first day of Conference, there was a passionate debate about a rule change to how sitting MPs would need to seek re-selection.
Currently, 50%+1 of all branches and affiliates in any constituency would need to vote to trigger a sitting MP. This means that there would need to be a negative campaign against a sitting MP. It also meant that an MP had a ‘job for life’ and that it was extremely difficult to trigger those MPs overly critical of the Corbyn leadership. The current system was described by a comrade as ‘Primark’. Most delegates wanted an open selection in every constituency, which was described as ‘Harrods’. However, the rule change proposed by Labour’s NEC can be described as ‘Marks & Spencer’ as it was a half way house between the current system and open selection. That is, only 33% of branches or affiliates needed to vote to trigger a selection where there is a sitting Labour MP. In the end, Labour members voted for ‘Marks & Spencer’!
The highlight of Conference was when comrade Colin Monehan from Harlow moved a motion on Palestine. The atmosphere in the hall was absolutely electric. The Conference hall became a sea of Palestinian flags. Colin spoke passionately to rapturous applause. His motion was followed up my ordinary delegates speaking up for Palestinian human rights and Jeremy Corbyn announcing in his keynote speech on the final day of Conference that a Labour government would recognise Palestine on its first day.
I attended many fringe events organised by the likes of Labour Friends of Bangladesh (which serves the best food at Conference), Morning Star, Islamic Relief, Labour Friends of Palestine, Labour List and so on. It was soon time to head back to London after the Conference wound down. It did not feel like I had attended a Conference with dreary speakers, but a festival of ideas to transform Britain.