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Cancelling Labour’s conference if Scotland votes Yes would insult party & voters alike

Labour Conference 2013Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, last night reported that Labour’s conference could be severely curtailed in the event of a Yes vote in Scotland and the recall of parliament on Monday which seems likely. Although this report is unconfirmed, Mehdi is widely respected and I am not inclined to ignore his report. It would not, after all, be the first time that important decisions about party matters were taken in the Leader’s office without consultation with Labour’s executive (whose meeting in Glasgow on Tuesday was cancelled). Mehdi reported as follows:

Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Labour sources confirmed that the party high command would cancel all speeches and fringe events, with the exception of the keynote address from Labour leader Ed Miliband next Tuesday, if the Scots vote for independence this coming Thursday.

Clearly, a Yes vote in Scotland would be a constitutional issue of unprecedented importance since the 1920s and Labour MPs would have to attend a recall of parliament. That would inevitably require rearrangement of conference business. But the party does not consist only of Westminster MPs and there is a general election in seven months, however Scotland votes. For most people in Britain, the issues that will concern them most in the election are unchanged by that decision.

Labour Party conference managed to meet in every year of the Second World War – a rather greater crisis than Scotland voting for independence, including:

  • In May 1940 as Germany was invading Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands;
  • In May 1942, as Rommel advanced on Tobruk, Japan completed its conquest of Burma and German tanks encircled the Soviet Union’s 6th and 9th Armies southeast of Kharkov;
  • In `December 1944 as the Allies were advancing on Iwo Jima, Budapest, Bologna and Luxembourg and repelling a German counter attack aimed at Antwerp.

Local parties and trade unions have committed large sums of money to travel and accommodation to attend the conference which they will not get back. Many organisations in the Labour movement have also laid out large sums of money to finance fringe meetings on matters of great importance to Labour voters. They will not want this money wasted. They value the opportunity to attend conference and meet activists  and elected representatives from around the country. And perhaps be inspired – by Bill de Blasio maybe. And they would expect any decision on such a matter to be taken by the national executive they elect, not by anyone in the Leader’s office or Shadow Cabinet.

And what sort of message would this send to the working class in England and Wales? That a constitutional matter of no great importance to them but happened to cause panic amongst the Westminster elite was more important than the cost of living, the proliferation of food banks, the lack of genuinely affordable housing, the lack of quality employment with decent pay, and the continuing decline of British industry?

And little good would it do for the Scottish working class either.

I sincerely hope that, on this occasion, Mehdi is wrong but if he is not and Scotland votes no, Labour’s national executive must stop this nonsense.

4 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if Scotland votes yes it’s all over for everyone. Our country would be dead.

    Who cares about a conference in such circumstances?

    1. Robert says:

      God you do make me laugh

  2. Robert says:

    And what sort of message would this send to the working class in England and Wales? That a constitutional matter of no great importance to them but happened to cause panic amongst the Westminster elite was more important than the cost of living, the proliferation of food banks, the lack of genuinely affordable housing, the lack of quality employment with decent pay, and the continuing decline of British industry?

    Sadly we had New labour and because of that Scotland lost faith as did many others around the country, it’s easy to get back you find a socialist leader.

    Brown is now seen as being socialist he was not when Blair was in charge we cannot forget what New labour did with Brown permission.

  3. swatantra says:

    I also accidently picked up that tweet fro mMedhi and was surprised. Very unlikrely the Conference can be cancelled because I’ve paid up and would demand a full refund, anlong with thousands of others. So it’ll carry on but EdM will be closeted in with Dave and Cleggy in No 10
    working out what to do next. Maybe send in troops and quell the rebellion of these North Britons; it worked for the Duke of Cumberland and George II.

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