Labour Representation Committee Conference Report

November 18, 2007 at 11:55 am (labour party, left, TWP, women)

Yesterday’s LRC event saw 250-300 people gathered at Conway Hall for a rather successful assessment of what the next steps for the left were.

While at times the contributions of the guest speakers dragged on somewhat, I was most impressed with the Women’s Network caucus during the lunch break. Here approximately 20 women and a few men briefly discussed the issues facing women and calling a conference in the new year of the network to begin to have an organised group of all women within the LRC which could address women’s issues directly. Nearly 10 women signed up on the spot to be on the steering committee and there was a marked optimism in the room about women’s self organisation and the possibility to build a serious movement for women’s issue inside the LRC which could attract members outside as well.

With regards to the main meeting, the conference significantly adopted a change to the LRC rules which abolished the “associate membership” category. This means that the only criteria for joining the LRC is that one must not be a member of an organisation which runs candidates against Labour. Mark Serwotka gave one of the more interesting speeches in which he questioned this criteria and indeed it is something that the incoming steering committee (to which I was elected) will need to address. For example, Bob Wareing was in the audience and if he runs against Stephen Twigg in the wake of his dodgy de-selection, he will need to run as a non-Labour candidate. The issue is going to increase rather than diminish and I look forward to being a part of the debate about the way forward. I am not certain what the SWP rank and file will do in relation to the LRC and indeed if they continue with their side of the Respect project then they would not qualify as members – but this is obviously an ongoing discussion.

In addition to this, Serwotka mentioned that he spoke at three of the four meetings which were taking place and made it very clear that he participated in the conferences that he believed were taking the left forward. I got the distinct impression that he did not attend the Respect Renewal conference which was later confirmed. He was however very clear that unity was desired and needed and indeed the presence of both vicitimised trade unionists Karen Reissmann and Michael Gavan indicated to me that while these rank and file trade unionist did not feel welcome at the Respect Renewal conference, they recognised the importance of attending this meeting. It’s a further reminder that, far from what those supporting RR maintain, the SWP contains a number of very good trade union activists who deserve to be recognised as such and not summarily discounted.

In fact, it was very good to see a rank and file women getting a standing ovation for a change with nearly £245 raised for her cause instead of some bombastic male as has so often been my experience on the British left.

The AWL put a specific motion forward which was moved by Chris Ford and also debated vigorously. According to the statement they were handing out and during Chris’ comeback after the debate it was clear that he was making analogies to the break with the Liberals in 1900. While taking their point, I tended to agree more with others who spoke that to split from Labour now was premature – but as I said before, one gets the impression that the discussion is ongoing in this regard.

Despite the largely elderly element to the meeting, I certainly got the impression that the LRC is going from strength to strength – and indeed most of the younger people at the meeting that I met were young women – certainly a very positive sign but perhaps once again should serve as a reminder to those supporting an anti-choice MP why they are failing to attract these young women.

All told I was pleased to be a part of this conference and still think it’s the best place to be for those activists wishing to rebuild the left in Britain.

15 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    TWP,

    was the meeting recorded?

  2. twp77 said,

    Not sure Modernity. I know someone was there with a camera and I believe there was an audio recording as well. I will look into it.

  3. Kpp2002 said,

    what on earth was “dodgy” about Bob wareing de-selection?

    he was deslected by his own local members, as per the rules of the Labour Party

  4. twp77 said,

    Dodgy because people shouldn’t be de-selected for their political views and replaced with a conservative LP member by the party machine.

  5. Peter Kenyon said,

    Dear Shiraz Socialist

    I was there in the room at Conway Hall too, as was the elephant..namely, was the PLP responsible for John(4leader) McDonnell not getting on the Leadership ballot paper, or was it John McDonnell himself?

    Judging by the clapping, cheering and self-congratulation it was all the PLP’s fault.

    If John had been bridge-building in the PLP as long as, say Save the Labour Party has on the centre-left of the Party, the whole story may have been very different..but he wasn’t bridge-building five years ago. Suggestions as for example on grimmerupnorth http://grimmerupnorth.blogspot.com/ that John wants to start bridge-building are to be welcomed. But if he seeks credibility in that regard, it would be better if he owned up now to having been his own worst enemy by failing to build support in the PLP in the first place. And to do so very publicly.

    Without wanting to rub salt in, I would go one step further and say it might have been helpful if he had had solid support from the Campaign Group of Socialist MPs in the first place.

  6. modernityblog said,

    Is the Left stuck in the 1930s? It sure looks like it

    I think that meetings where the Labour Left gets organised are great, but 300 people is not enough.

    I wonder why the organisers of such conferences can’t ensure that they are videoed competently, with a cheap video camera from Currys, so someone in say, Scotland (without the cash to travel to London for a weekend) could view the event and listen to the arguments?

    And if they are videoed then publicise it in advance on the web site, so that people can return and review proceedings

    The Left should be aiming for the biggest possible audience, not just 300 committed activists in London.

    If we assume that only 1% of Labour’s membership are receptive to these ideas then that is something around 18,000 people, not 300.

    I fear that, by the time, the Left has mastered video cameras, YouTube and competently publicising these ideas that Gordon Brown will have long retired.

  7. twp77 said,

    Hi Peter,

    I am not sure what you are implying by saying it was John’s fault for not getting on the ballot. I expect self proclaimed “socialist” MPs to back a candidate which supports the policies that they ought to be supporting themselves as socialists.

    You seem to be implying that the only important support is support from the MPs. – but I knew plenty of rank and file members that supported John and his campaign or at the very least wanted him to be on the ballot (one example being a friend of mine who is in the Fabian Society).

    Why is it John’s fault that a number of so-called “socialist” MPs thought it was correct to back Gordon Brown who supports war and privatisation against a candidate who was clearly backing socialist policies? Why too when it looked like he had a good deal of support from rank and file trade unionists (according to the poll at the TUC conference) was he denied the opportunity to be on the ballot? I think those are the real questions that need to be asked.

  8. Peter Kenyon said,

    Dear Tami

    I’ve been at this party renewal stuff for nearly five years.

    I’m not implying John was responsible for not getting on the ballot. I’m saying I don’t get the crocodile tears when, to the best of my knowledge, he did not seek to develop support for his candidacy until after he had announced his intentions.

    I am not convinced the LRC will develop into the movement it could be until there is more honest discussion about the circumstances surrounding the John4Leader campaign.

  9. kpp2002 said,

    re bob wareing

    can i just make clear to those that are seemingly ill-informed

    Bob wareing was deselected by HIS OWN CLP. In an open ballot of all liverpool west derby members he came 3rd. not one single branch (of 5) in his constituency nominated him, which is daming really aftter 25 years as the MP

    unless the next accusation is that 250 clp members in a very working class seat are all new labour??

    bob was deseleted as his is a useless constituency MP and was very unpopular.

    I also agree with a lot of bob views re iraq tution fees. there was nothing “dodgy” about his deselection

  10. twp77 said,

    Kpp – Sorry but I never claimed it wasn’t following the strict line and procedure of the LP – what I did claim was that it was “dodgy” and by that I mean politically dodgy. If you think it is acceptable for people to be de-selected because of their left wing politics and have a New Labourite replace them then fine. I think that kind of behaviour is politically “dodgy” – however procedurally “democratic” it may have been.

    Peter – I take your point but my point is I’d rather have someone like John representing the Labour left than waiting in the wings until he gets approval from those who ended up nominating Brown anyway. If that ws the case we’d never get started. I think he worked incredibly hard to get on the ballot and have a lot of respect for him. Did you have anyone else in mind as an alternative or are you thinking of the Meacher issue?

  11. tim said,

    Payback Time?
    Posted by Your View

    (This is a guest post by tim)

    George Galloway is a busy man.

    His party has just split in two and the locks needed changing on the office.

    His commercial venture in Blackpool collapsed and he’s involved in legal action against the theatre company.

    His radio show has been censured by OFCOM but yesterday George was nowhere to be seen.

    Oh, and supposedly he is a constituency MP.

    So where is George?

    Well according to the Jordanian Press he’s in Jordan.

    Apparently, he’s campaigning for a candidate in the upcoming Jordanian election.

    A man who bills himself as the Karak visionary

    The name of that candidate is Fawaz Zureikat.

    Of course, we all know who Fawaz Zureikat is, don’t we?

    The man who, according to the Volcker Report, The US Senate,and the UK Parliamentary report , carried out Oil Deals in George Galloways name and channelled cash to George Galloways Appeal and George Galloways wife.

    The middleman who George nominated as his appeals agent in Bagdhad during the Saddam era, at the height of the corruption of the UN Oil for Food Relief programme.

    If George is truly campaigning for this man to be elected as an MP, can we safely assume that Zureikat did not break Galloways trust by doing those Oil Deals in his name, behind Georges back?

    In the recent Parliamentary investigation into George Galloways behaviour, Fawaz Zureikat refused to give evidence.

    Is this the payback George?

    There were no staff in Galloways Parliamentary office this morning when I phoned to confirm his whereabouts.

  12. donpaskini said,

    Bob Wareing wasn’t deselected because of his left-wing views, though. No other campaign group MP has lost a trigger ballot. It wasn’t the party machine but local members who voted him out.

    He’s been one who called for mandatory reselections and attacked restrictions on Labour Party democracy, but when members democratically voted not to reselect him, he immediately went off to stand against the Labour Party. It’s really unhelpful behaviour and to treat him as some kind of martyr to New Labourism is the wrong way of looking at it. If he runs against Stephen Twigg then we should have nothing to do with it.

  13. kpp2002 said,

    donpaskini, you are complety correct
    they are plenty (glenda, corbyn) left winger anti war MP who didint get triggered

    its very convienent for Bob (who i dont dispute is a man of honour) to blame his delesction on “New labour” mafia but its simply a fantasy and running off to stand as an indy does him no favours. Deselction occured because of his poor performace as Local Mp his left wing polices were irrelvant.

    Im not new labour by any stretch of the imagination, but Stephen Twigg has re-invigorated the local party (or which you have prob guessed im a member) and deserves great credit for that

  14. Peter Kenyon said,

    Dear Tami

    Apologies for the delay in responding to your question:

    Did you have anyone else in mind as an alternative or are you thinking of the Meacher issue?

    I think the answers are: No and No. The issue of who now is less relevant for me than the direction of travel. LRC cannot succeed while ambiguity persists about its primary purpose. Google Alerts for ‘Labour Party’ highlighted this excellent analysis from Martin Wicks here:

    http://martinwicks.wordpress.com/2007/11/21/labour-representation-committee-conference/

    You can see my response in the Comments section.

    The LRC national committee is going to have to take a view about its members and affiliates over the issue of opposing official Labour candidates, where ever they stand and under whatever circumstances they were selected.

    How this is dealt with by the LRC could help decide whether it has any further relevance to rebuilding the Labour Party, which is Save the Labour Party’s prime focus.

  15. modernityblog said,

    well, it strikes me that trying to save the Labour Party with 300+ people in London is hardly going to cut it, how many Labour Party members are there? ~180,000?

    perhaps the LRC should aim their sights slightly higher?

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