Grassroots Black Left activists from around the country travelled to Brighton for Labour Party Conference to introduce their new organisation and recruit members. It was a remarkable success. African, Caribbean and Asian comrades were eager to hear about what they described as a long overdue movement that supports Jeremy Corbyn's progressive politics. A young Asian, who is a ward secretary of an East London CLP, said he would join "as long as it's left wing". Reassured that GBL most definitely is socialist, he joined up and got two other party comrades to do so too.
Ever since Blairism hollowed out Labour to tear the heart out of its rank and file activism and campaigning on working class and human rights issues, there has been a thirst for the Party to return to socialism. Nowhere is this more so than in the black community, where backing for Corbyn is among the strongest of his support base.
GBL comrades from London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham went to conference fringe meetings, including Labour Against the Witch-hunt, the newly launched Jewish Voice for Labour, which we support, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, on whose executive committee our co-chair Deborah Hobson sits, and Momentum's fringe about ‘BAME’ representation.
We met with and congratulated Seema Chandwani on her election, with the other left candidate Billy Hayes, to the Conference Arrangements Committee. First timer Chandwani topped the poll. Another black candidate Emine Ibrahim was elected to the National Constitutional Committee, before which my case and Jackie Walker's are due to be heard. The right still has a majority on the NCC, however, and has elected Maggie Cosin as chair.
We were pleased the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance appears to have accepted at least one of the three new constituency seats on Labour expanded NEC should be held by a black comrade. In future we would hope such candidates will be put forward by GBL and accepted.
It is to be welcomed that the Corbyn Review of party democracy will include a much-needed look at the moribund BAME Labour, that its secretary Susan Matthews conceded to us is controlled by Labour head office. It has been represented for ten years on the NEC by Keith Vaz.
We were heartened when Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute at a fringe meeting to black labour movement self-organisation and the Black Sections struggle for representation of the 1980s, which he supported at the time.
There's much work to do to advance the Black Agenda but for the first time the balance of forces is on our side.