I strongly support the direction the party has taken under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and, for the past three years, I have attended conference as an ordinary Labour member. I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in this way in the development of Labour’s radical transformational programme as it was being debated at conference each year.
Besides the debates and speeches which take place in the hall, in previous years I have enjoyed the opportunity to attend some of the many engaging events organised by The World Transformed, who somehow always manage to provide some of the best expert speakers for their sessions. TWT truly is an annual festival of ideas.
So, when several months ago in an All Members Meeting I was nominated Mid Bedfordshire CLP delegate for this year’s conference, I was delighted, proud and humbled by the decision. This was going to be my first time attending as delegate and the overall feeling was one of excitement. At the same time, though, I must confess that one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was whether or not I was going to be able to attend any of these other Fringe and TWT events I had so much enjoyed in previous years, given that as delegate I would be required to spend all my time sitting in the hall, following debates and taking part in votes.
I need not have worried. Even though, indeed, I wasn’t able to use my TWT ticket this year, inside the conference hall we had a constant supply of radical ideas presented by engaging expert speakers -mostly, though not exclusively, members of the shadow cabinet- and passionately debated by delegates and affiliates. The fact that, later in the day, these debates would be followed by a vote which could, if carried, convert ideas and proposals into future party policy made the whole experience even more compelling. One couldn’t fail to feel the weight of responsibility, and the empowering feel of active agency, every time we cast our votes.
One of the most interesting experiences during conference was taking part in the compositing meeting on Brexit on Sunday night, the second day of conference. For those unfamiliar with conference speak, let me just explain that compositing meetings are needed whenever several CLPs send motions to conference on one same subject. The idea is to try to get consensus among the delegates of these CLPs and produce one single motion to be taken to conference the following day.
Our CLP had tabled a motion calling for the party to continue to fight to block a No Deal Brexit/Hard-Brexit, using all necessary and available means, including fighting for a general election and supporting a public vote on the terms of any departure from the EU, seeking at all times to overcome division and build maximum consensus.
After four difficult hours of deliberations, it proved impossible to arrive at one single composite motion and we had to agree to take to conference two different ones. Ours, Composite 14, was the one carried by conference the following day.
As a first time delegate one learns a lot during the four days of the conference. I had great support at hand from my CLP and other comrades. As a result of the ongoing democratisation of the party, many people, young and old, from all corners of the country, are volunteering to come to conference as delegates for the first time. It was uplifting to see this, both from the comrades sitting near me as from the many delegates who, to rapturous applause, started their conference speeches from the rostrum with successive “First time delegate. First time speaker” introductions.