The day began in fiery mood when the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) report for the day directed that the issue about Westminster candidate selection be included in the debate on parliamentary democracy and that the proposal to be debated was not open selection but rather, a lowering of the ‘trigger’ threshold to 30%. Conference erupted on the issue. A show of hands to accept or reject the order of business showed an extraordinary divide; from where I was standing it looked like CLPs voted about 90% to reject but the affiliates section was almost unanimous to accept. As the voting arrangements are 50% each there was a card vote that resulted in the order of business was narrowly accepted but it was a raucous first hour.
The debate that followed focused on two of the eight proposals: the debate on open selection and the proposal to change the entry criteria for the Leadership and Deputy Leadership ballots to be 10% of MPs and MEPs plus 5% of CLPs or 5% of Affiliates. These went to card votes and Mick and I voted against both in line with the SGM debate. Mick spoke in the debate to ask the NEC to reconsider mandating that CLPs convene a minimum of eight General Meetings a year; pointing out that rural constituencies like ours would find this difficult as many members have far to travel. In the summarising at the end this point was addressed and we were assured that this is an ‘aspiration’ and that the NEC is looking at ways to help facilitate more engagement in rural CLPs and at offering help with technology options – on-linemeetings as an example. Mick’s contribution generated a discussion with a journalist from the Yorkshire Post and – as we walked through Albert Dock at about 10:30 in the evening – a fellow delegate that couldn’t remember the speech but had definitely noticed his ‘fabulous’ legs.
Most of the morning for Mick and I, plus two colleagues from York Central and Outer, was spent distributing leaflets in support of our Fracking contemporary motion. Now you can’t actually do this within the conference and Mick was told not to. Of course, he took no notice whatsoever and carried on until his second warning. We didn’t get on the agenda but we did our absolute best and my thanks to Charlie and James for their help. We polled 72,890 votes and came sixth on the list but fifth as Brexit got through in the Affiliates ballot- so close with four going through.
We attended two evening events: the Yorkshire and Humberside regional reception where John McDonnell spoke. He reminded us that our region is key to winning the next General Election – something that the day’s rumour mill was saying that the Tories are planning – as we hold a number of key target seats that must be won. For us Scarborough and York Outer are on our doorstep. He encouraged everyone to campaign hard in these seats holding out the prospect that, for the first time in a long time, when we win the GE then a Socialist will walk through the doors of Downing Street.
The second event was a debate on Brexit. We were both disappointed in that event as the platform was strongly advocating a second vote but at the end, when a question from the floor asked what the questions would be, there was no clear answer given. Some on the platform wanted three questions; some wanted two. As it happens, the Brexit compositing debate was taking place at the same time and that has produced a motion close to the one that our CLP chose and debated and close to the Kier Starmer position.
Other points made in the day was that the party is debt free and that we already have funding in place to fight a General Election.
A long day then and I thought that my reflection in the bathroom mirror this morning showed that I had aged more than one day since I last looked. More tomorrow and look out for more tweets.