Did you see it on the news at all?
The Labour Party annual conference is an exciting time in the diary of our 540,000 members. It is a chance for members across all our 500 or so Labour constituencies nationwide to meet, discuss ideas, and to determine where we stand on important issues in an ever-changing world.
This year The Southampton and Romsey Labour Party sent 9 delegates from Itchen, Test and Romsey and Southampton North, in addition to a number of members from within the local party who travelled up on their own dime. These delegates had an important job, which was to try and give a fair representation of their constituents’ views.
This wasn’t always an easy task given the complexities of the diverse range of issues that were on the agenda this year. Motions on Brexit and Palestine were obviously hot topics. There were various aspects of the party’s recent democracy review that needed to be discussed in detail. Rule changes were also up for debate, and all of this in just 3 short days (the first day and the last day of the Conference being largely devoted to the Women’s conference and the leader’s speech respectively). It was important for any delegate to try to assimilate all the information that was being discussed during the debates, and vote on the issues accordingly. It did however have the feel of a ground-breaking and exciting conference.
Conferences like this one can be inspiring and incredibly exciting. The South East regional forum on the first evening was a great chance for delegates to meet people that were in similar areas to them, and it was interesting to see how the electoral map changed significantly between areas that are only a few miles apart as the crow flies. The stories that were told helped to build teams that may be instrumental in future elections, and also drew attention to the sterling efforts of several battleground constituencies to close considerable gaps in recent general elections, despite doing so on very tight budgets with limited human resource.
The availability and welcoming nature of senior Labour party figures and MPs was also very obvious. The leadership and shadow cabinet were always happy to have a quick chat, shake your hand, and even have a picture taken, and were often seen appearing at meetings and discussions. It really does help support Labour’s claim that this is a party for the many, not the few.
Part of the appeal of conference was also the fringe events and training that was taking place. The conference venue was huge, meaning that some people were still finding rooms on the second or even third days. The city of Liverpool also welcomed Labour with open arms, with various venues from pubs to churches hosting fringe meetings that were setup by various groups or affiliated societies.
One of the more inspiring parts of the week was the obvious presence of ‘Labour Students’, and various other groups for young people. Some were specific in their campaigning for a people’s vote, but all wanted to play a part in democracy, and were very welcome. It was clear that the various comments by Sir. Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit were extremely welcome as proof that young people were being thought about. The mood of the students was generally one of optimism and hope, despite so much going against them at present. They have seen a glimpse of the huge potential that a Labour government with Corbyn and Mcdonnell at the helm offers, and are willing to work hard for it. Their packed Tuesday evening party at a venue in town (with none other than Emily Thornberry DJing) was a classic example of this.
The Conference finished with the traditional leader’s speech, and Jeremy Corbyn did not disappoint. Taking to the stage with the whole Shadow cabinet behind him, and straight after a poignant video that showed Labour’s campaigning efforts in Liverpool, to the music of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The huge applause that awaited him was worthy of a Beatles concert.
Speaking passionately and clearly for an hour, Corbyn delivered his vision for Britain. He highlighted the injustice and problems that needed to be overcome under a new government, and he inspired many people to redouble their efforts in campaigning to make sure that Labour got across the line at the next General election, whenever that is!
The conference had a huge underpinning message of hope. It was wonderful to meet so many likeminded people and to engage with so many important issues. Every aspiring politician, active campaigner and councillor came away better informed and better inspired.
We still don’t know exactly when the next general election will be given the current political challenges, but if everyone at the conference has anything to say about it, it will definitely result in a change of government!