Beverley and Holderness CLP sent three delegates to Annual Conference. James Ireland was our main delegate and the following is his report of what went on.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would urge anyone who has never been before to attend conference, it is a fantastic experience one that is unrivalled within the party
I would like to start off by thanking the CLP for choosing me to attend as our delegate for this year’s conference. It was an amazing opportunity and I am deeply grateful for it.
The experience of conference was one of the most enjoyable I have had within my time in the Labour Party. Everyone I met was friendly and there was a great sense within the conference hall that we were one entity. The initial start of conference was overwhelming to the senses, you are aware that is not just you and your follow delegates in the hall but all eyes of the Labour Party are on it as well. There was this electrifying pulse within the hall that I have never experienced before, everyone was ready with anticipation of what was to come. You start to see the line-up walk on the stage and you begin to recognise the faces that you have seen off the television and it starts to become a surreal moment. The almost celebrity status that you have cultivated of these people within your mind starts to disappear as it is clear they are mere mortals like yourself within a shouts range away. The opening speech by our deputy leader, Angela Rayner, fully inspired all of us in the hall to a standing ovation at the end of her speech. It made me feel as though we could achieve anything. The speech set out the green paper on workers’ rights, stating that, when Labour is in power, it will pass legislation to guarantee all workers’ rights from day one. There will no longer be the 6 months wait before you can ask for flexi-time, instead you can have it from day one. There would also be one category of single status worker ending the loophole of self-employment schemes that so many rip off companies use. The speech made it very clear to me that Labour stands with the worker and will fight to secure our rights within the workplace.
Throughout the rest of the day there were more speeches from more familiar faces and each was largely greeted with respect and applause.
The first debate that happened that afternoon concerned the various rule changes proposed by both the NEC and the CLPs, the debate was intense, but not in a bad way, the debate allowed for a wide range of views to be spoken and was rather exhilarating. By the end of the session, I left feeling a bit stupefied by it all, I had actually attended a conference that I had always wanted to do so for many years. I was ready for the rest of the conference week.
Throughout the week I attended some fringe events and made some new friends along the way. As I have already stated everyone was friendly and it was great to see so many people from all walks of life attend. It was frustrating that so many good events were on during the day when conference was taking place but that is part and parcel of the experience, I made sure to be in that hall throughout its session. The highlight of the fringe activities, for me, was at the Yorkshire and Humber meet and greet on the Sunday. There I was able to shake hands with and get my picture taken with Ed Miliband. We also had other big faces attend including our leader Keir Starmer, who was warmly welcomed at the event. The other events I was able to attend gave me a good feel that there are many questions we are still asking as a party and it is good that we are asking them so that we can improve and win. Such examples I saw included how to win back our former Red Wall seats as well as what the recent German elections meant for us in Britain and what we as a party could take from them.
The debates during the conference provided an excellent showcase of our membership. I was tremendously inspired by some of our youth members who went up to speak, there were 16 and 17 year olds who gave fantastic speeches and achieved some of the best ovations across the entire week. It gave me hope for the future that there is a good upcoming intake within the party to lead us forward. I was thoroughly impressed by them because I would not have been able to get up on the stage at their age and speak to a packed hall. This year one of delegates, Katherine Shaw, was able to speak on the stage and represent our CLP, we were all proud of her and she gave a very good speech concerning LGBTQ+ rights.
Whilst I did enjoy the debates, there were a few negatives to it all. The first one was the length of them, the first morning sessions weren’t bad but the afternoon sessions did sometimes feel a little bit of a drag particularly when the session would overrun, this was compounded in particular when many debates were lumped into one big session which included many reference backs. It would have been better if there was a better breakup of the day and the debates, but I fully understand that you can only play around with so much time.
Secondly, it was very clear throughout the first few days that only certain sections of the hall were being picked to present speakers for the debates. These were very often delegates at the front of the hall. Yorkshire and Humber, where we were situated, was at the back of the hall, but we were well lit. This affected many CLPs who were at the back being ignored. As the days progressed there were many calls from CLP Delegates at the back to pick speakers from there, this eventually did happen towards the end of conference at the end of the third day and on the fourth day. This definitely dampened the mood for us.
It was also quite apparent that unless one of the big unions supported a policy motion it would not pass. This was demonstrated at the Electoral Reform motion which was supported by 79.51 per cent of the CLP delegate votes but was not passed because 95.03 per cent of the affiliate vote were against, this resulted with a combined total against of 57.76 per cent against the motion. This felt very disheartening and made it clear it was forlorn without Union support to get anything passed.
The final day was the day we had all waited for, to see the Leader’s Speech. The hall was packed with delegates and the public stands were also packed to the fullest, the first time it had happened during conference. Again, it was an exhilarating experience. Starmer’s speech was very good and set out where he stood, he gave very personal stories concerning his family which helped to inform him to this day. He had also brought along John and Penny Clough whose daughter, Jane, was tragically murdered by her ex-partner. Starmer recounted his time as CPS director meeting them for the first time. It was a deeply emotional tribute and conveyed how much Starmer cares, it was excellently summed up by him asking “If I haven’t got time to see the parents of a young woman who has just been murdered, then what am I doing in this job?”
Starmer made clear that there are many areas in Britain that need fixing, justice system, education system and health and care system. He reiterated Labour’s commitment to a Green New Deal. Work. Care. Equality. Security These were the big four topic for Starmer who stated that these are British Values and represent the British people.
There were times when Starmer was heckled by people in the room but he calmly handled them and quite often there were other delegates telling the hecklers to shut up, these hecklers were a very small minority. They were not forced out of the room as some had expected but were left alone. The end of the speech was met with a resounding standing ovation full of cheers and whoops. The hall’s atmosphere was one of elation and it was intoxicating.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would urge anyone who has never been before to attend conference, it is a fantastic experience one that is unrivalled within the party. It was far better than I could have ever imagined, the television coverage does not nearly do it enough justice. If anyone is thinking about it, please feel free to contact either myself, Katherine or Jack to talk about it.