Sunday, 1 October 2017

Conference season - as good as it looks?

We are about to start the Tory Party Conference and could it be better for our party? Labour on the up, a buoyant conference, membership rising and the Tories in disarray.

More examples of this today with Marr giving Theresa May a grilling, on many issues- tuition fees, universal credit, Brexit and the bungling Boris Johnson. A documentary later tonight on Boris and his quest to get to number 10 will also be a further distraction for the Tory Party.

They are a party hanging onto power, with the majority of their activists continuing to support Brexit, Universal credit and low taxes whilst a number of their MPs now seem more concerned about their constituents, the country (or maybe just holding onto their seats!)

It seems the next General Election is ours to lose - but is it that simple?

The answer I am afraid is no, like the Tories, we also have an issue with Brexit, most of our MPs, our councilors and members are unhappy with the direction of Brexit but it seems we do not have a clear path we wish to take - it is understandable as many Labour voters in particular outside London and the South East voted to leave the EU, but the bigger issue is that for many of us it seem that Corbyn and others are actually happy with us leaving - so much for being the voice of your constituents or members!

How the Brexit debate (or non-debate) was handled at conference is why many of us within the party are still concerned in the direction of the party. there is no doubt Corbyn is now showing more leadership than previously, the PLP is now acting in a more united way and our membership is still increasing and we are now seeing policies being formulated that we can all get behind. However you do not have to dig deep to find problems and issues that should concern all of us.

Brexit should have been debated at conference but in a way that so called 'new' Labour would have been proud of, it was blocked from being a key debate in Brighton - and that decision seems to have come from those close to the leader and Jon Lansman and Momentum were the key players in making sure it was not debated.

Disappointing that many of our newer members, who in the main will be pro staying in Europe were willing to block debate on this most important issue just to ensure that Jeremy did not have to face any difficult questions on his and the party stance on Europe. Corbyn then joined the vast majority of  Labour delegates in voting for a rule change that would make it clearer that we as a party would not allow antisemitism to be tolerated in our party, but then by the end of the conference we have Len McCluskie and Ken Loach insisting that there is no antisemitism in the party - if they are right, why did Jeremy get Shami Chakrabarti to write a report on something that does not exist. Jeremy himself could have helped by mentioning the problem we have with antisemitism and the abuse Laura Kuenssberg receives alongside the comments he made about the unacceptable level of abuse of Diane Abbott receives but for whatever reason he never used the opportunity in his speech to do so - a missed opportunity.

To me all the good policies and discussions that came out of Brighton were overshadowed by the way some of the left wanted to manipulate the proceedings to make the week a rally to show the popularity of Corbyn. It was unbelievable that at first none of our elected metro Mayors were going to get an opportunity to speak, they were not the only ones who were going to miss out as many shadow cabinet members would also not be able to speak. This was dressed up as this would be a conference where more time would be given for members to speak but then they found time for Dennis Skinner MP to speak, an MP who only weeks earlier had ignored Corbyn and the whips and voted WITH the Tories over Brexit.

As a former soldier and with the current situation in North Korea plus the deployment of British troops to Estonia, I for one would have liked to heard from the shadow defence secretary - bit it seemed that only those close to Jeremy would get a speaking part.

A number of very vocal  Corbyn supporters (like those of Trump) are quick to attack the mainstream media, shout "fake news" but what Brighton did show that in some cases it can be the left wing press, the likes of the 'Canary' that are shown to be spreading fake news. Jeremy has an opportunity to show real leadership by not just staying silent but openly criticise those who spread such false stories.

One of the biggest Corbyn supporters in the media is Aaron Bastani, who tweeted this weekend this unhelpful comment - "See lots of complaints about poor Labour councillors/councils, and how they aren't in line with Corbyn. I agree, so join party and change it"

This comment was quickly condemned by some Labour MPs, but we need Jeremy, Diane, John and Emily to act quickly, condemn this comment and distance themselves and the party from such views.

It is not all gloom and doom, the party is in a far better position that it was year ago, I may be annoyed that we avoided a Brexit debate but at least for a while our commitment to Trident and NATO is off the agenda. We have some star performers on the front bench but we are also carrying those not up to the job and we need to find a way of getting the likes of Cooper, Coaker, Jarvis and Greenwood back on the front bench taking the fight to the Tories.

We also have a party with a very large membership, many if not most have joined because of Jeremy, we now need to get them to take the next step in becoming activists, community champions and then elected representatives - I do not fear our new membership, my concern is those who are returning to the party from (in most cases) self inflicted exile, they seem to just want to push the party further to the left, to take control of each CLP and then force on us an almost Stalin style way of doing things.

I am sure that is not what most new members joined to see, this is not what ' The world transformed' was on about -some from the far left want to bully us out of the party, if that does not work then bore us - with endless motions and votes and if that does not work they will try and shame us for not being 100% behind 'our leader'. But in doing so, just as Militant did in the 80's they will push us further from power, they will just help save the Tory Party and in doing so condemning the people who need us most even more time to be spent under a Tory Government.

That action would be criminal and that is why I and many will stay in this great party, it is not about us or them it is about helping a party whose main purpose is (and should remain as so) to put a Labour Government in power - in that way we can the many and not just the few.

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