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LRC comes out against AV, and debates the cuts

Following on from the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) National Conference I was subsequently elected to represent Leeds LRC on the National Committee. If you’re worried about more potentially disastrous tired guesses about attendance then fear no more, I won’t be making any such guesses this time around. John McDonnell lead off with a political report which in many ways was grim. He described how the cuts agenda was being driven through Parliament ‘day-by-day’ and reported encouraging signs of opposition from some within the Parliamentary Labour Party. Labour’s leadership however is still too concerned with not being seen to do anything wrong.

Comrades followed up with reports of various movements and groups. Something of a a lively debate ensued which revolved around how we should approach the cuts and Labour councils faced with the dilemma of implementing them or setting an illegal budget. Ted Knight was forthright in his criticism of Labour councillors who vote for cuts but this approach was criticised by several who pointed out the need for a dialogue.  This debate prefigured a later one over a motion calling for the LRC to call a conference aimed at discussing how to resist the cuts, and opening that dialogue with Labour councillors.

In this debate, the main area of contention was more logistical than anything  else. The motion specifically preferred a March date for this conference. However, the general feeling was this timing was tight and some comrades questioned the wisdom of even calling a national conference at all.  Instead, it was suggested a series of regional conferences maybe better suited to the purpose. The LRC’s regional organisation is however, at best, patchy and this would present an obvious obstacle to getting these events off the ground. Substantively, the question became whether to vote the motion through or remit it to the Executive. The need to make a start at least on doing something eventually won the day and the motion was correctly carried.

If you thought the debates were over then you were woefully mistaken. The section of what the LRC should advise in the upcoming referendums provided two flashpoints of controversy. Firstly, there was some discussion over whether we should support Patrick Nulty in the upcoming Irish General Election. I think I am not alone in feeling somewhat underprepared for this discussion, not really being aware of Nulty’s politics nor having had a substantial discussion on the Irish situation. It’s totally true that the Irish Labour Party’s politics are highly questionable but as was equally correctly stated, the same is true of the British Labour Party. However, I was unconvinced by the argument that the Irish Labour Party is a member of the Socialist International and therefore deserves support. I rather sarcastically pointed out to a comrade close by that the same was true of Hosni Mubarak’s NDP until just a few days ago; something which shows this body is neither socialist nor internationalist.

I understand why comrades may want to support socialist left-forces in the Irish election and that its proportional system allows for this. Both Sein Fein and other groupings are putting a strong left case in the Irish election. Nonetheless comrade Nulty is obviously somebody with politics sympathetic to the LRC and the electoral system means it is possible to support him without being ‘against’ other candidates in quite the same way you would be under First-Past-the-Post so this position was eventually endorsed.

Another flashpoint came over the Executive recommendation that the LRC makes no recommendation in the AV Referendum. In the following debate, most speakers lined up to criticise AV. Pete Firmin urged an active abstention – a position which was voted on but only received 3 votes. However, this was 2 more votes than the Yes option received with the overwhelming majority of the National Committee voting to recommend a No vote.

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