THE CONWAY HALL AUDIENCE GAVE A RAPTUROUS WELCOME to LRC Chair John McDonnell at our first General Meeting since his appointment as Shadow Chancellor. John relayed Jeremy’s solidarity greetings and thanks for all the work put in by LRC activists to help achieve this tremendous success. Contributors throughout the day referred to the present situation as the ‘chance of a lifetime’ – a historic opportunity for the left. McDonnell criticised the media’s repeated insistence that left wing policies were making Labour ‘unelectable’. He argued there is no contradiction between the need to elect a Labour government and the need to sustain a broad movement determined to radically change the face of our society. Despite the disaffected rump in the PLP, the majority of Labour MPs now want to ‘get on with the job’, and we must not be distracted.
John was joined on the platform by Yannis Gourtsoyanni of the BMA, the union of the junior doctors whose struggle against Jeremy Hunt’s imposition of a new contract could ignite a wider movement of workers and patients to take militant action in defence of the NHS.
Later, we heard from Ella from Plane Stupid, one of the ‘Heathrow 13’ activists facing a prison sentence for direct action to highlight the dangers of airport expansion for carbon emissions and climate change. Both of their contributions indicate ‘new politics’ cannot just be left to MPs in Westminster – we must change the political weather, and they will have no choice but to respond. As Hilary Wainwright emphasised, Jeremy’s ‘new politics’ implies a different understanding of power, not as top-down domination, but empowering the transformative capacity of our communities.
Former NEC member Liz Davies, who left the Party in despair at the anti-democratic onslaught of Tony Blair, told the meeting, ‘I’m glad to be back’, expressing pleasure in being proved wrong. Tottenham CLP Secretary Seema Chandwani argued that the LRC had a key role in political education and mentoring potential candidates to enable the left to win key positions in the Party. Bakers’ Union President Ian Hodson delivered a barn-storming end to the morning session, recalling that aspects of Cameron’s attacks on Labour’s funding and the rights of trade unions are reminiscent of measures last seen under fascist dictatorships.
The afternoon session saw a more detailed discussion on the LRC’s attitude to Momentum, and on the necessary constitutional house- keeping to make sure that we can respond effectively to the challenges ahead.