Seeds of change bearing fruit in South-East region
ON ARRIVAL AT THE VENUE in Southampton, we were met on the street outside with an energetic grassroots campaign to keep two local council care homes open, supported by many local Labour councillors, local members, unions and the community but - interestingly - not the local Labour cabinet. From the start, this conference was abuzz with creative, energetic excitement generated from the conference delegates themselves. It was great to see so many like-minded positive people meeting old friends and making new ones in animated conversations about issues and policies. There was a definite change in atmosphere from the previous conference two years ago that reflects the evolution in CLP administrations.
We registered and received our ballot papers for elections to the regional board and the National Policy Forum (NPF) and then heard from Jennie Formby. The afternoon began with a session on housing policy, with John Healey leading the panel discussion. Next was a training workshop followed by the motions debate.
The session to debate motions started with a group of delegates using direct action to convince the conference, through the floor, to reverse the conference arrangements committee’s decision not to hear the Brighton Pavilion’s motion on transgender rights.
After around 15 minutes of confusion and ever increasing support for the action from the floor, the committee relented. All the other motions flew through with pretty much full support from delegates as they consisted of standard labour policies on transport, employment advice, health, education, and a housing composite. All were well proposed, seconded and discussed by delegates.
The day finished with the announcement of the results of the NPF and regional board elections. The latter were notable as the incumbent chair, Keith Dibble, failed to get re-elected. And Ann Black narrowly held her seat with just 21% of the vote from Buckinghamshire & Oxford. It felt as though we are entering a brave new era in our region led by an enthusiastic, fresh team.
Another highlight was the fringe event ‘What's Left in Labour’ a broad left panel event, which was packed out with standing room only. It was chaired impressively by Gemma Bolton and speakers included Tan Deshi MP and Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, and also Becky Boumelha, Liz Davies and Lara McNeil. It was great to hear from so many inspirational socialist voices up close, an event that will live in my memory forever.
Sunday started with a workshop, then followed by the most fantastic debate on equalities, a panel discussion ‘Engaging underrepresented groups’. Speakers included Chi Onwurah MP, Lloyd Russell- Moyle MP, Gemma Bolton and the inspirational councillor Marie Tidball. There were so many incredible moments of heartwarming discussion, expressions of empathy and support for working towards a more equal society.
The conference was rounded off with a detailed, in depth parliamentary report from Alan Whitehead MP and a discussion with Chi Unwurah MP about her role as shadow minister for industrial strategy, science and innovation.
All in all it was a hugely inspirational, motivational and enjoyable event that speaks to the continuing evolution of the empowerment of our grassroots membership. Enabled by the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a fresh crop of new leaders for our region is developing nicely.
As a self-employed carpenter and builder, John is well qualified for his role as chair of a local residents' association and campaigner for affordable and decent housing through groups including Defend Council Housing and Homes For All. John was one of four delegates to the conference from