The briefing meeting by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) was very well attended this morning, with around 200 people crammed into a basement bar, just a few hundred yards outside the entrance of the Party conference in Manchester. Keynote speeches were given by Jon Trickett and Michael Meacher, as well as Ken Livingstone, Ann Black and Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary.
Trickett in particular spoke very well of the importance of democracy for the party, in order to allow Labour to have the moral authority to take with it the whole of the labour movement, and therefore to give a lead to the whole of society.
Jon described how in 1940, at the end of the disastrous Norway campaign, when Britain stood alone against fascism, Clement Attlee did not feel he could make a decision on whether Labour MPs could bring down the discredited Chamberlain government without first consulting not only among his parliamentary colleagues, but also consulting the party’s NEC, the General Council of the TUC, and the Labour Party delegates who had gathered in Bournemouth for the Annual Conference. The political authority that Attlee gained allowed the whole labour movement to provide the moral leadership in supporting the new coalition government, and the war effort to defeat Hitler.
We are obviously not facing a war, but we are facing an economic crisis, and Michael Meacher spoke passionately about the need for Labour to articulate a genuinely radical alternative from the left, and to put forward bold policies based upon the revitalising of the economy through investment, not only of civil infrastructure, but also manufacturing. Labour is 10% ahead in the polls, but to consolidate and grow that lead, then voters need to believe that Labour really does have a bold alternative. As Jon Trickett argued, the next general election needs to offer more than a change of faces in suits, it needs to offer a practical ideologically alternative with detailed policies in the interests of the working people of Britain.
Ken Livingstone explained how had Labour won the London mayor, then there would have been bold policies against austerity, and it was fear of that political alternative that led to the vicious campaign of callumny and libel against him, denigrating not his policies but seeking to traduce his personality. It is important that Labour resists the slide into dirty personality politics, and instead concentrates on policy.