Beverley and Holderness CLP sent three delegates to Annual Conference. Jack Ballingham was our youth delegate and the following is his report of what went on.
Fringe events were reinvigorating and reminded lots of us of what the movement is about
Conference began with what appeared to be the leadership taking a combative stance towards members. The General Secretary’s speech was less of a report and more of a show of force. The decision to voluntarily put his confirmation to a card vote was welcome, though clearly a result of the leadership’s confidence more than anything else. The results of constitutional amendments on the first day were mixed. The passage of NEC amendments on national equalities and student structures were welcome, though uncontroversial; both passed with around 99% in favour. The defeat of many CLP amendments was disappointing, particularly where a majority of CLP delegates themselves voted against them. It was heartening to see majorities of CLP delegates support some motions, decisively enough on snap election selections to force the motion’s passage against union opposition. Some very good speeches were made on that motion in particular, especially by comrades from City of Durham.
The second day included the first composite motions on policy. All but one of these carried on a show of hands, the one being the second motion on the Green New Deal. I found Gary Smith’s speech on this motion to be needlessly uncomradely, especially by comparison with most speeches on the other motions. This motion went to a card vote, which carried by a majority of 18.4%, though a majority of CLP delegates voted against. There was also an emergency motion on the Grenfell Tower fire from the FBU, on which Emma Dent Coad made a passionate speech. The remainder of the NEC’s constitutional amendments were discussed and voted on on the second day as well. These felt rushed; it seemed unreasonable to expect delegates to vote on such detailed and important proposals having only been given the text of the amendments hours before the votes. As a result much of the debate talked around the subject and had little to do with the actual proposals or their effects. Though it was encouraging that proposals to reinstate the electoral college system for the leadership were stopped in their tracks before conference, the package of changes billed as “getting Labour election ready” were a travesty in themselves. Quite how they were intended to get the party election ready was a mystery which nobody seemed able to clarify during the debate or since. Many valuable contributions were made by comrades on these changes in particular, and a majority of CLP delegates thankfully voted against them. Unfortunately, however, not enough to overthrow the union votes.
Debate on composite motions on the third day included the excellent motion on Palestine proposed by Young Labour. It was encouraging to see so much support for this motion, and so much support for the elected Young Labour committee despite disgraceful attempts to undermine them in the previous weeks. The composite motion on electoral reform was also debated. While most contributions to the debate were in favour, this was not reflected in the result of the card vote on the motion, which was swung by heavy union opposition. Beverley and Holderness’ emergency motion was also proposed during the third day; following discussions with the other CLPs who had submitted the motion, it was proposed by Brighton Pavilion and seconded by Shipley. When moved to a card vote, I was pleasantly surprised that it passed by such a convincing majority, not least that it was with substantial union support; unexpectedly, the union vote was actually more strongly in favour than the CLP vote was. Elections to the National Constitutional Committee occurred on this day as well; unfortunately only one of the candidates nominated by our CLP was elected. It was also on this day that Andy McDonald resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after being ordered into an unacceptable position on the minimum wage by the leadership. I attended the Tribune Rally on the evening, at which Andy delivered an impromptu speech. He spoke very sincerely, and received the most enthusiastic reception of any of the speakers that night. The support he received was extremely encouraging and I can only commend him on taking such a stand.
Composite motions on many important and emotive topics were debated on the fourth day, including on Black Lives Matter, LGBT+ rights, violence against women and girls, and immigration and asylum policy. An emergency motion on violence against women and girls, responding to the murder of Sabina Nessa, was also discussed. Contributions on all of these topics were very powerful, especially on LGBT+ rights. Many trans comrades spoke movingly about their own experiences, including, disgracefully, of abuse they had received while at conference. Our woman delegate Katherine also made an excellent speech on this topic. While the response from delegates was largely encouraging, it was disappointing that a few delegates chose to use their time on the platform to try to undermine trans comrades, including by speaking in support of Rosie Duffield. All motions passed by a show of hands. The ballot for Conference Arrangements Committee and for Auditors was also held on this day.
The main business of the final day, which ended earlier to allow for travel, was the leader’s speech, though this was also preceded by a discussion on election campaigning and success, including international comrades from New Zealand and the U.S.
Overall, politically, I find it hard to not be disappointed by the outcomes from conference. I think it’s clear that members have come out of this year’s conference with less power than they had before. I was also struck by how blunt many contributions were, including those from the leadership, in disowning the advances of the previous five years. However, it was still encouraging to see the strength of feeling from members, and to see that most regressive measures did not pass uncontested. Outside of the formal business of conference floor though, the week was a heartening experience. After 18 months of social isolation it was great to be able to be involved with the movement properly again, and to meet old and new comrades. Fringe events were reinvigorating and reminded lots of us of what the movement is about, especially those run by Tribune and The World Transformed. Above all, of course, I’m thankful to our members for electing me to be their youth delegate, and I hope I managed to serve their wishes as well as I could.