Monday, 8 October 2012

Conference Report from Walthamstow CLP Delegate

Our CLP delegate to this year's Labour Party Conference in Manchester was John Williams, and we're very glad to be able to include here this report of his time there:

                                                                   October 2012
Dear Comrade

I soon discovered that the laws of physics and politics converge at conference: you cannot be in two places at once.

I was mindful of keeping the balance of being your delegate on the conference floor, voting, attending a wide range of fringe meetings and joining in a great social event.  Over six days, conference was many things:

A Rally:  The centrepiece being the Leader’s Speech.  The confidence in Ed’s whole delivery electrified the room and he came across as a man driven by conviction: funny, passionate yet relaxed with his party.  Simply by being himself and speaking from the heart, the falsehoods of Cameron, Clegg and Osborne were exposed.  He developed One Nation further in a quite intimate Q&A the next day which demonstrated his new-found rapport.  His performance inspired confidence in us, but the conference has just as importantly, and very clearly, boosted his own confidence. 

A Policy Forum: The array of fringe meetings was bewildering.  The standard of speakers and the quality of debate were very high.  All key think tanks, campaigns and interest groups were present, and panels included academics, journalists and unions as well as politicians.  I tended to the events where my interest was greatest, chiefly democracy and ethics, Europe, transport, local government.  Details of all my activities are set out in the appendix.

Policy Development: The plenary sessions allowed the shadow Cabinet to set out new policies, introduce their teams and listen to a range of contributions from the floor.  I am keeping this part of my report brief as you can read the speeches at  Conference also debated contemporary motions including ours on the housing crisis.  This involved voting in a ballot to get it agreed for consideration, and then attending a long “compositing” meeting where the different views were hammered out to reach a compromise.  This was an extraordinary and secretive forum of raw politics, not always comfortable, but certainly memorable.  Another privilege for delegates was the Policy Seminars where everyone was able to speak to senior figures on the topics covered in the plenary sessions.  There was a danger of incoherence at times, but all views have been recorded and taken back.

A Great Social Event: From official receptions given by the astonishing range of groups making up the Labour movement, to parties thrown by interest groups, to informal gatherings and many private conversations, it was a huge family party.  It was so invigorating to spend a week in Labour Manchester with Labour people, meeting old friends and making new ones.  The accessibility of well-known figures to ordinary party members and to young politicians building their careers is a lasting memory.

A link with the local party: I have come away with new ideas, contacts, but most of all an enthusiasm that I hope we can all draw on in our work over the coming year.  I am happy to talk to anyone about the conference experience generally, details of debates and votes,  or specific events attended. 

Many thanks for choosing me as your delegate this year: an experience not to be missed if you are thinking about it yourself.

Yours fraternally
John Williams

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