The annual Labour Party conference takes place in Brighton from 27th-30th September. It comes just 2 weeks after the dramatic winning of the Labour leadership by Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour Annual conference over the years has changed away from anything recognizable as a working class political conference. The preparation and the documents were mostly drafted before the Blairites were aware of their forthcoming defeat. So in the official programme there are dozens of business-sponsored meetings advertised with (former) front bench spokespersons invited to speak. Included in the sponsors of such meetings are key agents of privatisation: ATOS, Deloitte, KPMG, G4S etc.
Chuka Umunna, still titled as the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, is listed about 10 times as speaking or being invited to speak. Chris Leslie is listed several times speaking as ‘Shadow Chancellor’.
The new Party leadership has not had the opportunity to pulp the inaccurate programme never mind formulate changes to the conference’s procedures. Those changes will need to come later in the year and the campaign to change the Party will need to come as soon as this conference is over. For the Party conference has to debate thoroughly the policies on which Corbyn won the election as well as others that have so far been declared.
Until the views of the membership can be forcefully expressed in this way, Blairites within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will have the maximum leeway to divide the Party and undermine Corbyn.
We need to discuss nuclear disarmament, promoting workers unity, anti-austerity and workers right in the UK and across the EU, the opening up of Britain and Europe to migrants and refugees; the crisis in the Middle East and the defeat of religious sectarianism, dictatorship and the denial of national rights to oppressed nationalities such as the Palestinians and the Kurds.
The week-end’s conference won’t do much in getting through this agenda. Only 4 motions are allowed from CLPs to discuss at conference and they have to jump thorough many obstacles to make it to the conference floor.
Rule changes have been submitted by CLPs to increase the number of resolutions and amount of time given to have such discussions, but these will either be opposed by the right wing or prevented going forward onto the agenda. How many get through is uncertain.
So don’t expect a radically changed Party because of this conference’s deliberations. For that we need to not only overthrow the old procedures but also to make the delegates more representative of the new Labour Party that is now forming.
Even more so than at the Special Conference 2 weeks earlier the delegations will have been decided many months ago. So although there will be a slight shift to the left, the conference will more be an opportunity to measure how the centre-ground of the Party has changed.
We can hope that the trade union delegations – again which will not have changed hugely from earlier years – will be prepared to demand more from the Party in clear pro-working class actions.
So expect some successes but don’t expect the other half – yet – of the revolution that saw Corbyn elected. Before we get that, we need to organise the left of the Party on the ground throughout the country. We need to get campaigning and debating – renovating the Party organisations with the new recruits and the new enthusiasm. But most of all we need to discuss how we can defeat this government now and replace it with a workers government as soon as possible. That will take more than 2 weeks to achieve but we cannot leave it for long