Monday – the Party Quiz and the Brexit votes
We arrived on Monday afternoon as the storm winds and rains whistled along Brighton beach. We joined in with Big Party Quiz, finding ourselves by chance sharing a table with delegates from some of our neighbouring Hampshire CLPs (Aldershot, Alton and Winchester), so we decided that our team name would be the ‘Hampshire Reds’. Unfortunately we did really badly – our knowledge of party history was terrible!
Towards the end of the quiz more delegates arrived as the Brexit votes had just finished in the main conference hall. Delegates had voted on two proposals that would frame the stance the party would take going forward; the first wanted the party to continue with its more neutral and open stance of being willing to take forward the majority outcome of the next referendum, whatever that might be. The second option was for the party to adopt purely pro-remain stance. Feedback from delegates on the floor was that there had been a clear outcome in favour of the more neutral option (which had the support of Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC). Although the Brexit dilemmas continue to be a source of strongly held differing views, I did not see any signs of the ‘civil war’ that the media described. The group of delegates I had supper with held a variety of opinions but we were all conscious that there is so much more that unites us than divides us.
Tuesday – Race and inequality and the Leader’s Speech
There were so many brilliant fringe events it was really difficult to choose. The fringe events usually last an hour or so and bring together 3 or 4 speakers to talk about a particular policy or campaigning issue. The speakers include MPs, academics and people who are working to address key issues such as homelessness, knife crime racism and gender inequality. After the speakers have shared their perspectives the audience raise questions or make points. I attended a fringe event about racism, class and prejudice, with Clive Owens spoke at. The event discussed recent research undertaken by the Runnymede Trust and underlined the need for the party and the unions to keep pushing forward against structural inequalities and divisions that prevent working class people and people from black and ethnic communities from gaining positions of political influence.
At lunchtime we heard that the supreme court had ruled that the shutting down of parliament had been unlawful, so MPs would return to Westminster the following day. The Leader’s Speech was brought forward to late afternoon and we managed to get a seat in the packed conference hall. Jeremy powerfully confirmed that “within 3 months of coming to power a Labour government will secure a sensible deal… and within six months of being elected we will put that deal to a public vote alongside remain. And as Labour prime minister I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide … only a vote for Labour will put the power back in the hands of the people. We can bring our country and our people together. Let’s stop a No Deal Brexit and let the people decide”.
“When Labour wins, the nurse wins, the pensioner wins, the student wins, the office worker wins, the engineer wins. We all win”. It was a great speech and recognised that we can all make a difference to bring about the social and political changes our society needs to support greater equality and social justice.
Alison Ridley (CLP Secretrary).