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This week’s Labour conference was breath of fresh air & extremely positive

Inside Labour CorbynThis week’s Labour Party conference was a breath of fresh air and extremely positive for the party. We saw Jeremy Corbyn give an impressive leader’s speech (see video here) which, along with other key policy announcements in areas such as housing, education, transport and welfare, started to set out a clear agenda on tackling the cost of living crisis that will win for Labour in 2020.

Additionally, John McDonnell’s passionate critique of ideologically driven austerity (see video here) – and his articulate explanation of the alternatives – showed why he will be an excellent Shadow Chancellor.

At my first conference as Shadow Development Minister I was delighted to make an address to conference setting out Labour’s priorities in the area of international development. This was covered in the Evening Standard ( see here ) whose report noted my belief that, “The test of the next Labour government’s development policies will not just be getting money out of the door or how many highly paid consultants we employ, but how we change the lives of women in some of the world’s poorest countries.” I also made it clear that I would not be voting for bombing Syria.

I was also honoured to speak in the Britain in the World seminar.

The conference passed resolutions overwhelmingly on a number of important issues, including alternatives to austerity, promoting a humanitarian and extensive response to the refugee crisis, and setting out clear conditions regarding UK military intervention in Syria.

I was also privileged to speak at numerous fringe events and receptions, including:

  • The Development Champions Roundtable
  • The Rally for International Development
  • The Women, Work and Wages event organised by Oxfam and the Labour Women’s network
  • The Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Stop the War Coalition and Stand up to Racism fringe meetings
  • The Guardian Live Debate – How can Labour win back power?
  • An IPPR fringe on Is the party over: What can Labour do to rebuild and renew itself?
  • The Liberty fringe on Save Our Human Rights Act
  • The One Campaign event on the final evening.

At these events I was able to both lay out our priorities for international development and express my support for Jeremy’s leadership and inclusive way of doing politics.

I hope you will join me and 100,000s of others in joining Labour (if you are not yet a member, you can join here) and uniting behind our newly elected leadership campaign to win in 2020.


  1. David Pavett says:

    I agree that the conference broke the mould (in both senses) in pointing out that a very different world is possible and that we do not have to, and must not, contract our vision to the limits set by the dominant ideology of our time. The speeches of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were especially useful in this respect.

    But, at the same time, the conference also showed that what has happened in the Labour Party, while delivering a shock to the system, is still a long way short of a change of direction. Rather, it has so far only announced the possibility of a change of direction.

    The mere announcement that a different approach is possible has been enough to set up enormous tensions throughout the party – especially in the PLP, but not only there.

    The gulf between the majority of MPs and the majority of members is starkly obvious. The MPs were selected and elected before the seismic shock of the leadership election. The tension this has produced will take time to resolve and will need to be handled very carefully. Corbyn has been obliged to make a Shadow Cabinet largely from people who are not sympathetic to his political project. The fact that the leader and most of his Shadow Cabinet colleagues are pulling in different directions on a host of key issues could not be made plainer.

    Clearly the election of Jeremy Corbyn opens up possibilities for left influence which didn’t exist before but we need to appreciate just how difficult his position is. The best way to strengthen his position will be, in my opinion, to hold a series of debates on key issues on which opinion is divided (e.g. Trident, returning education to a local government framework) so that it can be made clear beyond doubt that Corbyn represents the Party as a whole and those who are pulling against him do not.

    P.S. I was a little surprised that Diane spent most of her report talking about herself rather than the way Conference both showed the way forward and, at the same time, highlighted the enormous obstacles in the way of progress.

    1. David Ellis says:

      No. A revolution has to be pushed through quite ruthlessly because the counter revolution will be ten times more brutal. If the right regain control of the Labour Party, whether by coup or by having it returned to them by timid lefties, because there is no longer any objective basis that could support or sustain a right wing reformist government the pasokification will recommence and accelerate. The party will be over. The right wing are well aware of this but their task as they see it now is not to defeat the Tories but to eliminate socialism as an option or as part of working class consciousness. They would rather destroy the party as long as the left was destroyed too. As Blair said he wouldn’t support Corbyn even if he did have a winning strategy. That means that the left must purge the right and not yield to it in the name of party unity. The only meaningful discussion in the party now is not between the Corbynites and the toxic, irrelevant, finished New Labourites but between the Corbynites and forces to their left.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        So speaks the authentic voice of ultra leftism.You are welcome to your fantasies, but in the real world there is a chance of actually forging and developing a decent, democratic, left wing party with credible prospects for 2020, but only if people like you have no influence within it. David Pavett has indicated the problems and some solutions. There is a fund of genuine goodwill from the ‘soft left’ which has to be nurtured and maintained, even if that involves some compromise.We cannot afford the open civil war in the party that would inevitably ensue if what you are advocating was put into effect.

        1. David Ellis says:

          Ultra leftism. Dream on. All I have said there is that the Crobynistas need to push through their victory and at least hold on to the leftish elements of the programme that got Corbyn elected. So far not so good. Too much is being ditched in the name of party unith with a toxic right wing that cost Labour thousands of votes every time they open their mouths. I think I’ll stick to my `ultra leftism’ over your miserable opportunism any day.

        2. David Ellis says:

          I was flattering the Corbyn victory by calling it a revolution believe me.

      2. David Pavett says:

        A revolution has to be pushed through quite ruthlessly because the counter revolution will be ten times more brutal. … That means that the left must purge the right and not yield to it in the name of party unity. The only meaningful discussion in the party now is not between the Corbynites and … New Labourites but between the Corbynites and forces to their left.

        This advice that Party members to the right of Corbyn are not worth talking to and must be ruthlessly purged shows a failure to see what can and should be done to strengthen Corbyn’s current weak position (weak because he is unable to make much headway on many of the positions on which he was elected).

        Only in a rather over-active leftist imagination does the Labour Party consist of New Labourite traitors and true leftists. The reality is that large numbers of Party members, almost certainly the majority, have lost much sense of what the Party is about. For decades they have had incipient radical thoughts knocked out of their heads with “we won’t be elected if we say that”. Now the need is to work for genuine debate throughout the Party, no easy matter, so that such people can be encouraged to believe that thoughts of radical change should be nurtured and developed rather than (self) censored.

        Talk of ruthlessly casting members aside if they are not already lined up in the ranks of the left is, frankly, the stuff of leftist fantasy and is the sort of thing which is very likely to lead to the great historical opportunity provided by Corbyn’s victory being squandered in small-minded squabbling, vindictive exclusion of those not on the deemed to be left enough and general policy confusion. I agree with Peter Rowlands that this is very bad advice indeed and the sooner such talk is lost in a rising tide of serious debate about Party policy in Branches and General Committees the better.

        Leftist rallies (some have already taken place) calling for a purge of the right-wing, rather than campaigns to win the support of the mass of members for clear left-wing policies, will undermine Corbyn’s leadership even more than the sniping from the New Labourites. In fact such antics will provide ammunition to the latter just when they find themselves temporarily short of it.

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    Bazza has written previously.

    “Labour has had a good summer for with 160,000 new members and particularly many of the young and progressives attracted back and with more democracy for members we are now getting back to our roots, and Labour is no longer distancing itself from trade unions.”

    He almost makes it sound as though they’d won; but of course they didn’t.

    Notwithstanding them losing the general election with all the dire, brutal and even evil, (would not be too strong a word,) consequences that their massive political failure will now have for the UK, but particularly so for the disabled, the low paid and the between 4-6 million people, (probably,) in the UK currently still unemployed.

    Nonetheless, he along with many other commentators here, seems able to completely disregard the sheer magnitude of that failure, (“nothing is real unless it’s happening to you,”) and to even be in something of a party mood.

    But why?

    Although I along with many other people paid my £3 to vote for JC, (and put up his poster to the approval of most of my neighbours,) my own experiences have not really been anything like so positive or encouraging as Bazza’s. Our local CLP went into a conclave at our local Roman Catholic Church, (full party members only thank you very much,) and then decided who we were all going to vote for and when the white smoke came out of chimney so to speak, the lucky winner of their endorsement was Andy Burnham.

    Having told them exactly what I though of all that and also of their choice of candidate for Labour leader I haven’t heard anything from them since; despite or perhaps because of my own preferred candidate winning the election by an overwhelming, (not merely a convincing,) majority.

    So, “democratic socialists,” probably not so much.

    Just a typical tired, entrenched and sclerotic local party Mafia, comfortable and secure with an embedded and reliable electoral majority who are in the habit of, (and with reputation for,) excluding or expelling anyone who might rock the boat. JC may have won the election but as far as CLP are concerned it’s as if it never happened and for them its just business as usual.

    In fact I somewhat got the impression from my terse and limited contact with our CLP that they wish we’d, (those of us who support JC,) just go away and also a certain wry confidence that if they continue to ignore us we’ll simply disappear back into the woodwork; after all that has always worked for them in the past.

    Also regarding these, “160,000 new members,” of whom I’m one. What has both surprised and concerned, (has even shocked me bit,) were the number of people I know personally, who although they agree with me just as passionately about most of issues that made me vote for JC and against Burnham, Cooper and Kendel, nonetheless still remain so sickened and cynical about politics, politicians and the toxic Blair legacy that they still didn’t bother getting involved even at £3 a throw. So how long we’re going to stay with Labour still remains an open question for many of us?

    In fact only 160,000 new members probably still isn’t that much of result, not considering just how much the Tories are loathed and despised and the kind havoc they’re about the wreak across the country’s key public services and the number of people, (particularly our disabled,) that those policies, (first adopted by Labour,) are literally killing in cold blood.

    It could even be said and certainly I’d put that way, that the screams of our sick and the dying and of the dispossessed are being drowned by the sound of people like Bazza smugly patting themselves on the back for no readily apparent reason.

    Personally I really couldn’t care less about a gender balanced cabinet, (no one that I know regards it as being remotely important,) and equally the Trade Union movement for most people is simply a tired political legacy of little real value, but particularly not since they’ve all but ceased, (after the pattern of the American Federation of Labor, not the UK tradition of Trade Unions,) to represent the rights and interests of the unskilled, low paid, of the disabled and the unemployed in their hurry in there own way to jump onto the Tory bandwagon.

    But let’s take a look at Labor judged by the contributors to Left Futures and ask ourselves just how representative and inclusive these people actually are of majority of the British electorate or how much direct or personal experience they can really have of the growing grass root problems of for example violence against women or against children or violent and abusive racism directed against many tenants and how scant the resources are to respond to them.

    These people are:

    Michael Meacher has a real job.

    Meric Apak Councillor.

    Naomi Fearon Councillor.

    Ann Black A computer programmer.

    Richard Murphy Director Tax Research LLP.

    Michael Burke Economic consultant.

    Conrad Landin A journalist.

    Uri Avnery Another journalist.

    Mark Seddon A Journalist and Speechwriter.

    Owen Jones Another Journalist.

    David Osler Yet another journalist.

    Ben Mitchell Freelance political analyst, (I suspect that means journalist.)

    Keith Ewing Professor of Public Law at King’s College London.

    Bryan Gould Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waikato, (serving until his retirement in 2004.)

    Duncan Hall Another college lecturer.

    Mark Drakeford Professor of Social Policy at Cardiff.

    Lucy Reese FE college teacher and TV producer.

    David Pavett Retired maths/science/philosophy teacher.

    Phil Burton-Cartledge Lecturer at Derby University.

    Carl Packman Health researcher ?

    1. David Pavett says:

      A vibrant socialist movement would by its own logic bring forward people of many backgrounds. This should not be confused with the idea that the understanding of individual commentators is necessarily limited by their social background or mode of earning their living. This view that an individual’s understanding of society is directly limited by his or her background a piece of crass sociology according to which only people who have suffered starvation can understand hunger and therefore represent those struggling to find enough to eat, or in which only the illiterate, or once illiterate, can truly understand the importance of literacy. This is the sort of crude thinking which will stifle the development of socialist thinking which the Corbyn victory could make possible.

      P.S. The crudity of the thinking behind the above listing also assumes that people have no other major experience of life than their current job. That is to pile simplistic analysis on simplistic analysis. We really need the debate to move beyond this sort of stuff and to discuss the issues rather than personalities and their presumed limitations (a point frequently made by Jeremy Corbyn).

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