Saturday, November 22, 2008

London Labour Party Biennial Conference 2008

The conference was in the historical Old Town Hall in Stratford, Newham, E15 so I was able to walk there from home this morning enjoying the blue skies, cold fresh air and winter sunshine.

I was there as a member of the UNISON Labour Link delegation. We had a delegation meeting first where we discussed motions and whether we should support them or not and who should try and speak on motions from the conference floor.

The morning session of the conference was dominated by speakers, reports and Q&A’s. The afternoon had workshops, “our Ken” and Resolution debates, finishing up with the internal regional election results.

I’m not going to try and give a “full report” on the conference. Rather, a snapshot of some of the stuff I personally found interesting, usually from my own particular trade union perspective. A health warning is that this post is based on my hurried and often illegible scribbled notes.

Ken Clark, London regional director of the Labour Party brought us all into order (eventually, a Labour Party meeting of any kind is loath to start on time). The main hall of the Town Hall was pretty full with delegates. I assume about 300 plus people? Len Duvall, Chair of London Labour Party (and GLA Labour leader) chaired the conference. He had been re-elected Chair unopposed. From my hurried squiggles I note that he pointed out that this was not a time for the London Party to be sending out mixed messages; Labour in power makes a huge difference to people’s lives and we should never forget this; in the recent GLA elections despite the loss of the mayor we actually polled more votes than in the past and we had support in inner and outer London. Labour represents all of London.

The first main speaker was Sir Robin Wales, the directly elected Mayor of Newham who welcomed delegates to smell the fresh air of a Tory free Newham (there are no Tory or Liberal Democrat opposition councillors in Newham). He reminded everyone of the Labour history of Newham and this very Town Hall. It was at this very place that Keir Hardy was elected as the first ever Labour MP in 1892. The balcony overlooking the High Street that we had all walked past to get in the hall was were Keir gave his victory speech.

The first ever Labour Council was elected in West Ham, Newham has the largest Labour majority in the Country. London as well as the “North”, has its Labour heartlands. Robin was very, very direct about his opinion about Galloway’s Respect (no comment). He also warned the conference about Boris and that we should judge him on what he does rather than what he says. This was a common theme from the day.

Harriet Harman MP (and deputy leader), reminded the conference that the Labour Government had indeed paid off debt in the past so now was in a better position to deal with present problems. While in the past you had to believe in prudence, now it is prudent to be bold. Labour in the current economic difficulties will not be saying unlike the Tories “if it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working” or that unemployment is “a price worth paying”. Traditional Labour values are about fairness and equality. She also noted that all London Tory MPs are white.

Next was an unopposed Conference Arrangements report (standing orders committee) followed by Guest speakers.

First was Tessa Jowell MP, Minister for the Olympics, who started her speech by mentioning that on route to Stratford today, the Jubilee Line had been partly closed. If Ken had still been in charge of Transport of London, this of course would never have happened! (Joke) She also said that the last time she had been at a London Biennial conference in 2006 she never thought that she would be present when Labour had nationalised the commanding heights of the British economy! (Joke – if somewhat true). Tessa pointed out that 75p in every £ spent on the Olympics would be spent on regeneration. 8,000 jobs will be created in the newly built Stratford Olympic shopping centre alone while 10% of the current 3,000 construction jobs are recruited locally from the unemployed.

Tony McNulty MP, Minister for London, Employment and Welfare Reform was next. He argued that some were overdoing the “doom and gloom”. The Tories are proving themselves not to be serious politicians. Cameron is very like “Strictly Come Dancing” Star, John Sergeant, (I can’t remember exactly why but it seemed applicable at the time and got a good cheer from conference). Tony reminded everyone about a fundamental difference between the Labour Party and the Tories – you would not get anyone in Labour “singing in the bath” about market cruelty. He also accused Boris of imitating disgraced Tory Westminster Politician Shirley Porter, for trying to use housing policy to gerrymander elections. Finally, he reminded everyone that if the election of Barack Obama taught us anything the last thing this country needed is an Old Etonion as our Prime Minister.

Good stuff - I’ll post on the rest of conference tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is an old Etonian? But we had to have a Blair as a Prime Minister who went to Fettes - the Scottish Eton? Funny that!
What we actually need is the most able person for the job and not Labours old prejudices - why don't we elect a public toliet cleaner as PM...much better eh?

Anonymous said...

I agree..the last thing we need is Labours old class war rubbish and dumbing down of public life. So Cameron went to he had the chance of a fantastic education..that's positive. We had to have a Deputy PM who couldn't even string a coherent sentence together and went around thumping people..only Labour with its envy could think this was acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Hi John, Whats wrong with prescot mr anon, If someone hit me with a egg i'l thomp them to, I what a mp that i can relate to. go two thomps. Brown is the only one who is thinking side the box, What as the torys got ?.....

Anonymous said...

Paul..were you a product of Labours dumbed down "educashun system?" Try learning to write in English...

John Gray said...

Hi Anons
What nonsense – Fettes is not the Scottish Eton. There is only one Eton, one Eton playing fields etc and no other school can really take its place as a centre of privilege over the centuries. Now, it is probably a very good School and has turned out good farmers, soldiers, sailors, merchants, artists, poets and writers along the years. Long may it do so (hopefully as a state run boarding school)
But I don’t want a middle upper class Eton and Oxbridge Educated professional politician as my Prime Minister.
Why not someone who started out cleaning Toilets? Why do you think you are better than people who haven’t had the same start in life as Cameron did?

Paul – ignore the comments about your spelling – spelling use to be considered as a matter of taste in a gentleman. Their comments are the really ignorant!

Anonymous said...

You don't want someone who went to Eton and Oxbridge...but Fettes and Oxbridge OK? Whats the basis for you reasoning?
A toliet cleaner for PM would be very impressive! Very Labour.

Anonymous said...

That's odd..look up Fettes in Wikepedia..."its described as the Eton of the North" and had a number former headmasters from Eton running it?
On this basis it looks pretty much to be accurately descibed as the Eton of the North?
Blair went to the Eton of the North and Oxbridge and half the cabinet were priavetly educated...FACT old chum..get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Its just the normal Labour envy and predjudice.."four legs good, two legs bad"

John Gray said...

Hi Anon’s
The Sunday Times this week described Eton as “the traditional entry ticket to the Establishment”. Scotland, although not of course perfect (it’s got the nats in government!) is far more a meritocracy than England and Fettes may be a good school but does not have the associations with privilege that Eton has (and for which it charges up to £28k per year!)

Why are nearly 7% of Tory MP’s from Eton while they only make up 0.04% of the population? Is this good for our society? Why have 49% of Tory MPs gone to private school compared to 7% of the population?

(Figures from the very non public school educated Hazel Blears at Progress conference).