Conference Day Five: The Final Countdown

Typically, the last morning at conference is a relaxing time, and many delegates have already started their trips home, often because of the distance they have to travel. However to the politics junkie and first time conference delegate that is me attended diligently.

I’m glad that I did, for several reasons. Shaun Woodward reminded the conference that it was Labour who delivered the Northern Ireland peace process. The new bargain that Ed has talked about was delivered in Northern Ireland by Labour. We can do the same in Great Britain.

There was an NEC motion on the job losses at BAE, announced yesterday. At the end of which, Len McCluskey, the Unite General Secretary and NEC member who was moving the motion, he introduced several of the Unite stewards at the affected plant, and they were given a standing ovation. Conference showed its solidarity with the workers at BAE.

We had an interesting debate on creating strong and sustainable communities, and I have to say I had some sympathy with the delegate who called a point of order on the fact that the Housing Composite was being debated at the same time, but no delegates (other than the mover and seconder) had actually been called to speak on it. There was also a Q&A with a panel made up of newly elected Labour local councillors. The really interesting thing was the inclusion of Ben Cooper, Labour councillor for Dartmouth in South Hams. Knowing Dartmouth, its not a strong Labour area, indeed Ben is the only Labour councillor on South Hams District. The story of there being no more no-go areas for Labour is resonating with me, as I see this very much applying to Angus. With STV, I see no reason why we shouldn’t have a councillor in each ward. Caroline Flint gave a good speech, which some in the hall decided deserved a standing ovation. However, there were actually less than half the attendees stood up, as while it was reasonable, it wasn’t anything special, although the announcement that the private rented sector will be regulated was welcome. I don’t know if Michael Cashman was rubbing it in, or being deliberately blinkered when he described it as a well-deserved standing ovation. Caroline looked uncomfortable at that.

Hilary Benn have a good speech to help wind up conference. I’ve never really rated him, i suppose partly because of the inevitable comparison with his father Tony (who is still around at a spritely 87). He ran through a number of things the last Labour government had done, and when he came to the financial crisis, and how we dealt with it, he gave a great anecdote. Afterwards, he said, he had phoned up Tony. “Dad, you know you’re always saying we should nationalise the banks, well guess what we’ve done today”. He asked us to remind people, when asked by folk on the doorstep whether it was worth voting for us, that we had forged the NHS in the aftermath of the second world war, remind them of the national minimum wage, of the hospitals and schools we built, the winter fuel payment. Hilary got a genuine standing ovation, across the hall. His speech was much better than I expected, but strangely enough it wasn’t commented on.

After an short interlude where Hilary Benn introduced a lady from Stone in Staffordshire who had been affected by the cuts. While it was interesting to hear from her, I wasn’t sure that her story was that different to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

Maria Eagle then introduced someone else, a councillor from Liverpool. A Liberal Democrat councillor – Lynnie Hinnigan. well, she was a Liberal Democrat up to yesterday, as she had just filled in her application form for membership of the Labour party. She got a standing ovation. It was well deserved. She spoke about how she had been lied to by Nick Clegg. She works as a youth worker in Speke, and she worried about the cuts and the things which Labour had introduced which were so important. And the cuts to them which made her leave the Liberal Democrats.

Harriet Harman’s speech was also well received in the hall. It contained a good measure of barbs at the Liberal Democrats, attacks on the Tories and praise for Ed Miliband. Again she mentioned the ending of no-go areas for Labour.  Following this was the traditional rendition of the Red Flag and Jerusalem. My first time at singing this, of course, and it felt good to be part of this long standing tradition.

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