Sunday, November 21, 2010

London Labour Party Biennial Conference 2010 (part 2)

Check out my previous post here - I spoke on the main housing debate. As the Unison Branch Secretary of the London Housing Association whose 3500 members are terrified of picking up the pieces resulting from the Coalition cuts.

I referred to Karen Buck MP point about imposition of near market rents. This means the death of social housing. For nearly 100 years governments of all political persuasions have provided subsidy to make homes affordable to the low pay. Now - all new tenancies according to Inside Housing magazine, not the Labour Party, will have to pay £130 per week extra - I repeat £130 per week extra for an average 3 bed property. This is a national average, so this is not a London thing. This affects all new tenancies up and down the Country. This is not social housing anymore. If you are on a low income, unemployed or elderly you cannot afford to live in such homes.

Next was a well deserved Merit award to London Labour and trade union loyalist Maggie Cosin. Who gave a cracking acceptance speech. Many of us well remember meeting Maggie at by-elections across London.

Clive Efford MP led on the Public Services debate. He reminded everyone that it was former West Ham Labour MP, Tony Banks, who first christened Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, as “Mr Spud-u-like”. Unite Regional secretary, Steve Hart, spoke about winning this war requires cold strategic planning. The ConDems lie machine is in overdrive. On the doorstep this has some support. We must address these arguments. Public spending under Labour was lower than under Thatcher. Look over the water to Ireland to see our future under ConDems. There are 4 things we can do - defeat Boris and elect Ken in 2012; Labour councils and Labour MPs work with the labour movement to oppose cuts. Work with Labour Councils not fight them to build a movement of unions and councils. Build the march next year on March 26. Not just the trade unions on this march but the Labour Party as well. Labour and trade unions - our movement, united fighting for London. Together we can win.

Then lunch (in local cafe across road – lovely all day breakfast)

Next was a panel chaired by Linda Perks. Patrick Henegan gave a detailed presentation on “London 2012 Winning across the Capital” (Yes, we can). Tessa Jowell MP spoke about how being a member of the Labour Party use to be about a way of life. Being a Councillor, a trade unionist, educating yourself at the WEA, using the Co-op or even being a member of a brass band. For many in this Coalition the reason why they came into politics is purely to privatise and to reduce the state.

Labour London Mayor Candidate, Ken Livingstone, gave a simply blinding speech. Even those who are fed up with Ken at this moment agreed. He warned about those people who say to him about the London mayoral election in 2012 that “you will walk it”. If we do that we will lose. If Boris wins against me despite this being during the midterm of an unpopular government, it will be all about him to succeed Cameron.  Labour needs a machine to win. The old London Labour machine of Herbert Morrison (grandfather of Peter Mandelson). For 40 years this machine mobilised Politics. We need to build such a machine. Get the politics right and if we build the machine it will deliver and save Britain from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

In 1979 he stood as MP for Hamstead. For the previous 3 years they had built a Labour machine there. We lost in 1979 but had built such a strong machine that when the tide changed, Glenda Jackson, got in as MP. The election in 2012 is different. There are Labour voters everywhere. Every single vote counts. In safe labour seats there are labour supporters who think it doesn’t matter if they vote. At the moment Boris is on 44%, me 42% and 14% for other parties. We are fishing in a small pool. The Tories have a big machine. It will be stupid to have all the right polices and not win. Boris has recently scuttled to the left like a crab. In last election he said transport fares are very high in London. He didn’t say “but I will make it higher”

Ken grew up in a London where there was always a local copper around. Putting Police in cars was a disaster. Safer Neighbour Teams (SNT) are the biggest advance in policing. A huge reason why crime has been cut. SNT offer reassurance and safety to the whole community.

Growing up in the 1960s he never met a unemployed person. When he became an MP, people who lost their jobs went onto sickness benefits. They were encouraged to go on the sick even when not sick. If you were not sick, 20 years of watching daytime TV would make you ill. The state subsides bad employers. We need a Living wage not just a minimum wage. If we build 100k new homes per year it would create 750k jobs. Get people into jobs and paying tax - not claiming benefits.

Ken described his first meeting with new Labour Leader, Ed Miliband. He had not felt so comfortable with a Labour Leader since John Smith. Ed is aware of mistakes made in past. When Herbert Morrison won the London County Council Elections for the first time it was to demonstrate what a Labour Council could do. This is what we must do. Then show the rest of country what Labour can do.

Winning the argument” - no one will vote unless we will run the economy better and fairer. Ken has seen economy policy unravel in an election. Current National debt is 1/3 debt that of 1945. Despite this we then went on to enjoy the best quality of life in 1000 years of our history. A Vote for Ken will not save you from the pain. He will do everything to protect Londoners but it also needs a Labour government. There are 800k on London council waiting lists and how many other don’t even bother to register.

London’s biggest international selling point is our tolerance. Unlike France with its ban on scarves and the Swiss ban on minarets. The aftermath of the London bombing showed our tolerance. We can say to countries like Brazil bring your investment and you don’t need to leave your culture behind.

Labour’s greatest times are still to come.

(next was workshops). Picture credit Deirdre Costigan.

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