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LABOUR conference kicked off today in Liverpool, following Women’s Conference on Saturday, and with The World Transformed and a host of other events also taking place over the rest of the week.
Of the tens of thousands of people descending on Merseyside this week there is little doubt that the overwhelming majority are backers of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and his political agenda.
Gone are the days of a Labour conference dominated by corporate lobbyists and speech after speech made by winnable Blairite MPs-in-waiting, and it’s great to see delegates sporting badges from their unions and a range of progressive campaigns and causes, from Orgreave Justice to Palestine Solidarity.
Today’s official conference business was dominated by discussion of the democracy review and associated rule changes.
Speaking about the final package put to delegates yesterday as a result of a last-minute NEC meeting last night, left-wing NEC member Darren Williams said: “The decisions made by this evening’s Labour NEC meeting fell short of what the left and democracy campaigners (myself included) ideally wanted but they were the best result achievable under the present circumstances.”
He explained: “The compromise on parliamentary selections — whereby an open selection can be triggered by either a third of party branches or a third of affiliated union branches in the CLP — is actually a significant step forward, making it easier to replace an underperforming MP than at any time in the last 20 years.”
He added: “The change to leadership nomination rules — requiring a candidate to secure either 5 per cent of CLPs’ nominations or 5 per cent of the affiliated membership, on top of 10 per cent of MPs’ nominations — is a small step backwards but does at least end the PLP’s status as the sole gatekeeper.”
As the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) noted, we now need to work to ensure that the democracy review suggestion of reducing the threshold from 10 per cent to 5 per cent for nominations from the PLP — in order to ensure a proper choice for members — is returned to in the future.
Another important decision to be made today was on the priority ballot for contemporary motions and it was great to see both Momentum and the CLPD united in recommending the same four topics.
These included vital parts of Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda, namely international solidarity and support for Palestine and clear anti-racist politics, including support for some excellent motions on the Windrush scandal.
The highlight of the day on the conference fringe for the left was the annual Labour Assembly Against Austerity rally with speakers including shadow cabinet members John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long Bailey.
The key message coming from this meeting was that we needed to unite behind Corbyn’s agenda and keep convincing voters that they’ll be better off with Labour.
Tomorrow’s business includes McDonnell’s keynote speech at lunchtime and discussions on Labour’s alternative economic strategy.
Fringe highlights for the left include the Morning Star’s evening fringe, Abbott speaking at lunchtime Stand up to Racism and 5.30pm Stop the War Coalition events, and a Latin American solidarity rum reception at 5.30pm with Chris Williamson MP and others at the Crowne Plaza.
Also be sure to pick up your “yellow pages” from Momentum and CLPD volunteers each morning for the very latest news and tit-bits on conference happenings.
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