Sunday, January 25, 2009

London Progressive Conference

This was well worth attending yesterday and a surprising good use of a wet and windy London Saturday in January.

“London Progressive” was set up by Ken Livingstone after he lost the London Mayor election to Boris.

Its web site states that it is a “a unique coalition, launched by Ken Livingstone, and involving people and views from across the political, cultural, community, generational and artistic spectrum, to promote the kinds of progressive policies which have made London such a success and a place where people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds can be themselves and come together around common goals”.

This is a pretty ambitious goal. Still, any coalition that can get the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, to attend alongside leaders of the Greens and Liberal Democrats has not only got ambition but quite some pull. Mind you, the utterly vile Gorgeous One was also apparently there, as was Mr McNoHoper MP.

There were of course plenty of rumours circulating about what Ken hopes to get out of this coalition. Many feel he is angling to be the Labour Party candidate for London Mayor for 2012 (which I think is pretty much a given if he is chosen) or is he keen to build up a coalition similar to that of 2000 so he can stand as an independent in 2012? I don’t think so and I think that if he thought that he would have never rejoined the Party. The most Machiavelli theory was that Ken is building up support in the expectation that Labour will get a hammering in 2010 and he will be parachuted into Parliament as a leadership candidate. Yeah.

While the “nice but dim” trots in Workers Liberty dismiss Ken as a “fake career leftist” – whatever that means.

London Politics is obviously different to national since we have a PR system in City Hall and it appears that with Boris at least, all the democratic opposition political parties have an incentive to work together. Boris is after all very much a unifying Politician (to his critics).

It was certainly very well attended. The main conference hall at Congress House was packed with all seats taken and people having to stand at the back. There was a refreshing absence of head bangers. Harriet had some very silly heckling but the vast majority of participants told them in no uncertain words to shut up. She did really well and got the best cheer I think of the day. The seminars I attended were also packed with many standing up because there were no seats left. The lifts in Congress House are subject to conservation orders and are clearly inadequate to transporting lots of people from room to room, so to get anywhere in time, you need to use the stairs. Very green and pro public health.

I will post on the various seminars I attended and speeches during the next week. There was some really interesting debate and comment. It was also a bloggers delight since a lot was going on politically and it was great opportunity to chat and network with lots of people face to fact that you have only met previously on line. There is still no absolute alternative to such personal contact. It was a good day.


Anonymous said...

Workers liberty
ex labour party
now they have registered as their own party
shame they never told their 86 members

I see Workers Liberty (Alliance foe Workers liberty) have also labelled Jon Rogers a fake left careerist

the end is nigh

noel said...

It seemed from the conference that there are alternative narratives - moving from the “what worked” under Ken (living wage, congestion charge, etc) to the “what matters” (fairness, care & solidarity) which…well really matters lot in how we frame our responses to the recession to Londoners out there who are really feeling the bite.

But is it enough to bring together politicians from across the “progressive spectrum” to show our solidarity on issues like Heathrow or the living wage which portray that alternative narrative to the government? Is it enough to congratulate ourselves on getting such a massive turnout at the conference? People will be fairly interested in a range of issues but there’ll be one issues that really drives them - whether it’s Gaza or civil liberties - these wedge issues were all represented…but there was no mechanism for people to take these forward from the grassroots…

It slightly astonished me when Ken talked about all the networking to get this conference off the ground, but surely this should be the start of something not just the ultimate hangover cure from the elections?

At our Compass Youth “young london” workshop, the room was packed out - with people but mainly with ideas - mentoring scheme for young people to get into green jobs, youth mayor for London with a capacity building budget, making CRB checks portable, a virtual youth club and cooperative schools. To be honest, with an hour an half and with four exciting speakers that we were keen to listen to as well, as well as competing against other heavweight sessions at the same time, we were scared that either no-one would turn up or not many people would want to put forward, let alone work out together what campaigns we should take forward for young Londoners.

To be even more honest, the winning idea, making CRB checks portable to enable more people (young or old!) to take part in volunteering, isn’t something that we may have thought of on our NEC, but we committed to campaign on idea that won most votes and that’s what we’ll do. In fact, we’ll support people who want to take forward the other campaigns put forward.

Why? Because if you give people an inch, they’ll give you a mile…oh, and because we enabled people to give us their email addresses so we can get in touch with them in doing this. It’s pretty basic, but if you ain’t got their contact details, how are you going to build a progressive coalition?

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
What "Mr Sleazy Rogers" is a fake left careerist"? Never! How dare people say such stuff about JR!

Hi Noel
Yes there are major problems, and I think that progressive politics will never replace Party politics. But in London and elsewhere due to PR we have to learn how to work together better against the "common enemy"... The Tories.