The Labour Party Conference: Beyond Opposition

By Dawn M. Sanders


With motions passed and clarifications on contentious issues, such as Brexit coming to fruition at last week’s Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, what can seem like last week’s news could become tomorrow’s headlines.

“It feels it’s a very vibrant, intelligent conference – listening to everyone respecting each other’s views, I think that’s very good for democracy.” Said John Wycherley of the East Devon constituency Labour Party (CLP).

While many attendees of this year’s conference were just arriving and checking into security a week ago Sunday 23rd Sept. a pain-staking motion was being drawn up between delegates and shadow cabinet members.

In the run up to the conference, it was ‘given’ that Brexit would dominate discussions – as continued tug-of-wars within government have mirrored a possible lack of clarity within Labour.

This lack of clarity would inevitably mushroom into a tug-of-war within the drafting of the motion itself.

However, despite a renewed compromise by the leadership and a majority of remain supporters, bringing a sigh of relief throughout the conference, the media persisted with less than favourable coverage.

Wycherley from East Devon spoke of how invigorated he felt and how, despite a diversity of opinions, everyone shared the commonality of discontent and anger toward the government and country as it is.  He said: “They, the media, like to stir it a little, pick on any differences of opinion and make it into something big.”

Elsewhere within the conference, there were multiple workshops ranging from Media Manipulation in Minorities and Other Press Abuses (highlighting the need for the Leveson 2 Enquiry) to be opened,

To the decriminalisation of sex work at a fringe venue.

In fact, the choice between attending workshops covering daily pressing issues and hotly debated ones, was often bewildering.

No matter how wide ranging the topics up for discussion, venues were often packed to capacity.

The stewards and good-natured security workers were invaluable, as the conference was abuzz with a thriving atmosphere.

Sitting in a main atrium amongst food stands and charity/good cause stalls, attendees could be heard exchanging views of whatever side of debates they were on, which CLP they were in or musing over the sheer size of the conference.

From Cornwall to Scotland, which could easily be documented, the conference brought together a diversity and broad church of views and concerns.

Molly from London, on a Comprehensive Futures Steering group, said they opposed any selection by parent ability or aptitude.

She said it was a falsehood to measure intelligence by the 11+ exams, saying: “It encourages social and class division and often gender gaps…”

Valerie from London’s Islington North, said of the prospect of Labour leading the country from austerity: “I’m quite excited actually.  We have a new membership of young people, a radical manifesto – placing the economy back into people’s hands…”

Of Black British Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) origin, she praised the grassroots movement of the party.

Valerie pointed out how, the only reason the Tories were still in government is because of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) propping it up.

John Wycherley, a 64-year-old shop owner from Exmouth said:

“It feels it’s a very vibrant, intelligent conference – listening to everyone respecting each other’s views, I think that’s very good for democracy.”

He spoke highly of shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry’s speech.  Drawing historical parallels, Thornberry called for the party to unite.

Now with the Tory Party Conference in full swing, Theresa May’s awaited message on the path forward for Brexit and the country as a whole – how this will position the UK on the political stage is anyone’s guess, as all eyes are on Birmingham.

© 2018