Conference started with the announcement of the result of the leadership election. The overwhelming vote in favour of the continued leadership of Jeremy Corbyn was enthusiastically received. It set the tone for the rest of Conference which was one of unity and determination to come together to fight the Tories. This was expressed in speech after speech in Conference over the following four days and was clamorously applauded by delegates and visitors, who were essentially telling the PLP to put the recent divisions behind them and get on with their job.
The quality of speeches from the platform was excellent, to my surprise I have to admit. There were no weak speeches, there were many impassioned speeches and the insight and policy content were generally substantial. In spite of the unprecedented difficulties of the period leading up to Conference the Shadow Cabinet came across very strongly and presented a comprehensive set of policies with some new and radical proposals which were warmly welcomed by Conference. These included:-
Legislation and international agreements to close tax havens and end tax abuse. Shift the tax burden from those who earn wages and salaries to those who hold wealth. £250 billion infrastructure investment programme Create 200 local energy companies and 1,000 energy co-operatives. New Childcare Taskforce, to transform early years provision for every family. Every academy and free school to be accountable to their local communities. Bring back Educational Maintenance Allowance, maintenance grants for low and middle income students and student nurse bursaries. An ethical policy on arms sales. Take the global leadership role on nuclear disarmament Halt and reverse the tide of privatisation and marketisation of our NHS. Repeal the Health and Social Care Act No more PFI in the NHS A million new homes over the next Parliament with half social housing. Scrap Tory ‘Pay-to-Stay’ policy and suspend the Right to Buy. Block TTIP, TISA and CETA, create international trade partnership called Just Trade.. An integrated national transport network which should be publicly owned. Scrap the Work Capability Assessment and punitive benefit sanctions. And much, much more. It’s worth looking through the comprehensive summary. Also worth saying that the speakers as a whole were very well balanced in terms of gender, age and ethnic groups.
Fracking. Although we were not able to get our anti fracking resolution onto the agenda I managed to make a speech against fracking which was well received, we leafletted the delegates and held a successful anti-fracking fringe meeting. We were rewarded by one of the surprise policy announcements which was that a future Labour government would ban fracking completely.
Jeremy Corbyn was extremely impressive making two major speeches, speaking at every regional meeting as well as some fringe meetings. His main speeches together with those of Tom Watson, Iain McNicol and Sadiq Khan are reproduced separately.
Summary. Conference was genuinely uplifting. The policy platform gave us more positive substance to campaign on than we have had for some time and the mood at the end was of determination to unite and win the next General Election, which some believe could be next year. Morale of delegates was high. Conference ended with the launch of a campaign against new grammar schools which has already had some success. Note also that the new Shadow Cabinet, announced in October, has been expanded by nine including John Healey, Nia Griffith and Keir Starmer.
See Mick Johnston’s speech to Conference on Fracking by clicking the following link and running forward 1 hour and 17 minutes.