Labour Conference Report - Day 1

It feels like it has been a long day.

11am-12

I got to the conference area in time to get basic training on Contact Creator which I now have access to for Surrey Heath.

12-1pm

South East Labour Meeting including distribution of voting cards of numbered votes that can be applied to particular votes if either a show of hands is inconclusive or they are rules change votes.

1pm-2pm

Brexit policy forum with Keir Starmer and Richard Corbett. I didn’t get the chance to speak but it was well natured. No real opposition to a referendum and a range of views about whether the Labour leadership should take a remain position but all expressed without anger.

2.30-6pm

Main hall with votes on rule changes.

Minor controversy as a card vote was called to reject the CAC report. The principle concerns were:

  1. the way that the Asylum, Immigration and Detention motions had been split into different options for the priorities vote.
  2. the disciplinary rule change not meeting the wishes of Jewish members and particularly the fact that it was being debated and voted on when strict Jews could not participate.
  3. Presentation of rule changes where those changes not supported by the NEC were presented differently without side by side of the old and new text.

The final vote on this was 60%-40 in favour of accepting but the accept side was dominated by the union block vote.

Highlight was Dawn Butler speaking on equalities. The person next to me and I both spontaneously had thoughts about whether she may be a candidate for leadership in the future.

On the rule change votes most of those lacking the support of the NEC were withdrawn. I voted against a few changes in particular where there were requirements around the EC make up that I didn’t think we could sustain with our current levels of interest. I was hugely torn on the disciplinary process changes proposed with good speeches against from a barrister, an NCC member and a Jewish member but I decided to back the change which puts greater power in the NEC’s hands to decide clear cut cases. I view it as a test/challenge to show that they are dealing with issues and hold them accountable for the outcomes.

7pm-0:30am

Green New Deal Compositing Meeting - to be continued Sunday evening

No blood (or conclusion) but definitely sweat and tears. [I’m going to have to have words with Julian for proposing this motion when I see him next as I think the Brexit one might be easy in comparison]. A couple of core issues are risking split motions. It took a couple of hours to get to the point where a starting point combined text was decided on by vote (multiple earlier calls for votes were denied) but after finally voting the one the party staff had assembled was adopted as a base (I voted of the “Socialist Green New Deal” starting point but wished they had just done the vote earlier. I did contribute a little to break a deadlock on whether “HS2” was was to be supported by proposing that “high speed rail” was used instead so I wasn’t entirely useless. There is real feeling and dilemma in the room about how much watering down to accept and whether it should be split and the allowed to fall rather than compromising too much especially on target date.

What I’ve Got Wrong About the Brexit Process

While the overall destination of Brexit was reasonably foreseeable what has caught me out is the lack of will to decide on a long term destination for the U.K. The willingness to fudge and to postpone making any choices that entail any trade offs has been spectacular. Even now the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration Leave almost anything on the table from Norway to something more like Canada. Issues around the border in Ireland are significantly due to the limits on the fudge the EU is prepared to accept where they apply there.

Surprised by May

I honestly thought she was smarter than to trap herself into corners with red lines like she did, alienate “people of nowhere” and to fail to listen to the experienced advice around her like Ivan Rodgers.

The other surprise was May’s decision not to reach across to Labour to make them complicit in the deal and to provide her with more routes through Parliament. There were two main opportunities to do this; after the referendum and again after the general election. She could have said “Things have changed”, acknowledged her lack of majority and sort to find a compromise option. She could then have shared blame for aspects that were softer than the ERG wanted, could have blamed Labour if the walked away and critically potentially had a majority without DUP or ERG. The only thing she would have lost would be being able to act as if Corbyn was unfit to be near responsibility, a threat to be used against all who oppose her except Labour, maybe that was too high a price for her to pay.

Sufficient Progress (December 2017)

That this stage was crossed without it seems the DUP or the ERG understanding the contents and melting down at that point was a surprise as the now unacceptable Withdrawal Agreement was essentially set out at that point. It did also seem at times like May didn’t understand what it meant either as she claimed the backstop was something that “no British PM” could agree to despite having done so in December 2017 and then proceeding to do so again in December 2018.

No Confidence in Brexit - Parliament could Take Control

This is an outline proposal of mechanism for Parliament to really take control if it becomes necessary. I don’t think this is most likely route to an informed consent people’s vote but this is the last ditch restoration of Parliament’s control that could become necessary in the New Year.

This sets out a route that could remove everyone’s worst fears in voting no confidence in the current government and get the country through a referendum and allow parties to restore themselves before an early next election later.

BBC Complaint - Planned Marr interview of Aaron Banks

This is a copy of a complaint I've submitted to the BBC about their plans to interview Aaron Banks (the Leave.EU funder now under investigation by the National Crime Agency).

The Marr show is the wrong place to cover Banks. It is too general and get to know you to interview someone accused of serious crimes. A live interview where he can’t be fact checked and be asked to provide evidence is a mistake.

Three Jewish Newspapers Discredit Their Case Against Labour

There appear to me to be absolute inaccuracy in their characterisation of the Labour proposed code of conduct which I will detail below. Essentially their one specific claim of what is acceptable is clearly and specifically forbidden in the Labour rules.

Short version is that the case against Corbyn and Labour regarding these definitions seems at least exaggerated and incorrect statements are made about specific examples casting doubt on the overall thrust. I do believe that there is a genuine problem to clear up in the Labour party but with such inaccuracies in reporting of basic facts it becomes harder to accept the extraordinary claims made without appropriate supporting information or evidence. This isn't to say that there might not be some room for improvement but the current document definitely doesn't seem to be something that should be triggering the level of outrage that it is unless people haven't read it and are basing their opinions on what they read in the inflammatory press.

I'm not in a good position to judge the general situation and would generally place a lot of trust in those media organisations better placed but when the factual details I can check are so wrong it makes it harder to trust them for the big picture and whether there really is a problem with the code and what it really won't catch. I also fully accept that there is antisemitism in Labour and want it to have strong and robust rules and practice to deal with it, this is purely about the best mechanism to do that and whether the criticism of the leadership is fair and valid; if I felt it was I would be having to change position on certain things but for the following reasons I still believe that the criticism of the leadership is overblown and exaggerated.