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.