by North Cornwall Delegate, Ray Shemilt.
Before getting on to my main report I am going to say a few words with reference to my Labour Journey so far:
Back in June 2015, I re-joined the party to support Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy for leadership. I had resigned in 2003 following TB’s invasion of Iraq and standing with my fellow comrades, including of course Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, on that massive “Stop the War” march in February 2003. The party no longer reflected my views of what the Labour party should be.
As soon as I re-joined I was full of optimism and by using social media supported JC in every way I could. At last the buds of socialism started to appear in Cornwall with the revitalisation of CLP’s and new branches popping up all over. We achieved our goal and JC became our leader on 12 September 2015. However, much to the anger of the vast majority, we were made to fight again for his leadership. In 24 September 2016, he was re-elected, despite the best efforts of the party machine to purge members, (this included me on the 9th of September on trumped up charges of abusing members on social media). It was obviously an attempt to stop JC supporters voting but as we all know it failed, instead increasing the vote for JC. It was thanks to the support from members of my CLP exec that my suspension was lifted, but after the vote. No apology was received from the NEC. Now our new left NEC is in place these things hopefully can be left in the past.
It was a huge step for me to put myself forward to be delegate for conference. As some of you are aware, as well as my physical disabilities I suffer from depression and social anxiety. This can become phobic at times. However because of you I felt supported and able to except the nomination, despite my heart beating ready to burst from what I was going to put myself through.
First, I must thank Joy, Deborah and Paul for their help and support during the conference as well as my fellow delegates Trudie and our star turn Holly.
I had never been to a Labour conference before and had no idea what to expect, but as soon as I set foot onto the site I felt welcome and in a safe place. Everyone I spoke to was polite, friendly and supportive. I say to you all start saving for next year, book your time off work as you should not miss out on going.
From day one the atmosphere was electric. Everywhere you went there was a buzz in the air. We were home with our fellow members and delegates in the Social Democratic Republic of Liverpool. Never having been to Liverpool before, I was taken aback by the wonderful friendly people. They achieved the impossible by taking me out of myself, letting me find for the first time in a long time, an ability to talk to strangers. This was thanks to my comrades who were always with me.
At first, I found conference and its procedures somewhat confusing but soon got into the swing of things, even biting the bullet and raising my hand to speak – unlucky this time but maybe next. The current method of choosing speakers needs to be revised as the chair was obviously having difficulty in seeing raised hands on my side of the hall due to the lighting. Note to self: at next conference register to have steward to raise hand on my behalf as physically it hurts me to keep my own up for any length of time. You live and learn.
My Diary of Events
Day 1. Saturday 22nd Sept
We left Cornwall at 1am arriving in Liverpool just before 8am as we could not get into our accommodation until 10.30. We found somewhere for a cooked breakfast overlooking the Mersey. Being the day of the woman’s conference, we left Trudie to do her thing while the rest of us retired to our beds to catch up with some sleep. We met up again when Trudie was finished, then off to the Annual Conference Rally arriving to the tune “Liar Liar” sung by Captain Ska https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxN1STgQXW8 . We gathered near the stage with our Cornwall banner followed by the South West reception where we got ourselves noticed by wearing our Cornish tartan scarves. We certainly got ourselves firmly on the map thanks to all our Cornish comrades from our other CLP’s joining together and Deborah kidnapping various MP’s etc to be photographed wearing the tartan, some of whom kept them.
Day 2. Sunday 23rd Sept
Arriving before 9am to attend the South West Briefing, where we had explained to us the procedures and collected our card vote booklets. One disappointing thing was that during conference there were not enough printed copies of the CAC reports for all. We did receive an email version but it is easier to have sight of a printed copy. We can only hope that the complaints have been noted for next year’s conference.
Jenny Formby https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7ll9QXZWIQ was then formally elected unanimously as our new GS. She then gave a speech that was well received by the floor. At last we have a GS that we can put our trust in to support both the membership and our leader.
When it came to voting for or against the CAC (Conference Arrangements Committee) report a card vote on no 9 was taken owing to the split between CLP and Union votes on a show of hands. These were for changes to the selection of MP’s and leader. In the end, the changes were passed because of the Union block vote. When I challenged a UNISON delegate on this, I was told that it was their policy because open selection would take away their power. The unions need to become more democratic and listen to their members; with open selection the MSM could no longer accuse the party of being in the control of the unions. What has been decided is an improvement but does not go far enough. We then had a debate on the Democracy Review moved by Claudia Webbe and with many contributions from the floor.
Matt Wreck of the FBU spoke in favour of open selection and the leadership election and why they were voting with us against Card vote 6 and 8, an exception to the Union block vote.
Card Vote 1 Members Democratic Rights – FOR
Card Vote 2 Local structures CLP’s and Branches – FOR
Card Vote 3 Regional Structure’s – FOR
Card Vote 4 National Structure’s – FOR
Card Vote 5 National Structures National Conference – FOR
Card Vote 6 Leadership Elections – Against
Card Vote 7 National Constitutional Committee NCC – FOR
Card Vote 8 Westminster MP selections – Against
Women’s Conference Motion Passed unanimously by show of hands.
In the evening the Cornish posse went to the fabulous “Stand up for Labour” event. I can never get out of my head the act “Teresa Cabaret” a burlesque version of our PM. Many tears of laughter were shed. I will leave it to your imagination where the two Tory rosettes were displayed. And once again we talked to Peter Stefanovic (FB https://t.co/EZpLHn8O8i) (Twitter https://twitter.com/PeterStefanovi2 ) with whom I’d had a chat earlier in the day, )with of course the obligatory photo,). We look forward to him coming to Cornwall to talk to us next year, his having accepted our invitation.
Day 3 Monday 24rd September
Another great day in conference with speeches from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ0UVnFM8Ak John McDonell (Shadow Chancellor)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY-fbdFlHHI Carwyn Jones (Wales)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2Eq0OBE5_4 Richard Leonard (Scotland)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh_opG8qvQ8 Richard Corbett MEP (Europe)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1xQpfrSsvo Angela Rayner (Education)
I think am turning into a Labour geek, as at last I am getting my head around such things as to what “compositing” (Compositing is the process of combining several motions into one composite motion) of motions is, and I must congratulate those delegates from Cornwall who were busy until midnight today helping to get agreement on the Brexit motions eventually presenting a motion on day 3 that was carried unanimously. Both Sally Sweeney and Tyler Bennetts were chosen to speak today. Holly tried hard to be called to speak; she was dying to talk about education.
We all decided to go for a collective Curry. Our first choice was full but we were directed to one around the corner. On the way we collected a few from other areas, including Raj from London who has known JC, John and Jenny for many years. I do think it was the most expensive curry house in the NW but we had a great time. On our way back to the car we witnessed our first crime in Liverpool – a burning litter bin – soon put out by a young woman with a jug of water.
Day 4 Tuesday 25th September
This stuff is addictive. I cannot wait to get to conference hall for today’s hit, looking forward to hearing from
Keir Starmer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI9NOHszfRY&t=12s ,
Rebecca Long-Bailey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC7rXDYa48w&t=7s on Brexit and the Economy and, as usual a fantastic selection of speakers from the floor.
Got so involved in chatting to people on Disability Labour, LBGT and BAME stands that I was late back to my seat, disappointed to have missed the start of Lord Alf Dubs’s speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZKwtSLlBcM&t=7s (but have caught up since).
This was followed by speeches by Emily Thornberry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5ZOOY-3gVE&t=13s and Diane Abbott: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNlyR-OZCB8&t=10s , and of course Len McCluskey of UNITE. His speech on composite 2 “An Economy for the Many” was inspiring. Also I was pleased to meet him and proud that he was only too happy to be photographed with me, Amanda Walsh and Paul Farmer, wearing the Cornish Tartan: 😊 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfwizsU3Ej8
In addition, Margaret Greenwood spoke on Social security and the way the Conservatives hostile environment is attacking the sick & disabled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ1N8GcfxNk UC must be stopped, sanctions destroy lives and kills people. See, too, James Colwell, NW Durham Delegate, on the DWP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u43eDRYMLA
The highlight for me was Tosh McDonald from ASLEF when he said,
“A month before I started work, Thatcher was elected as Prime minister – And I hated her!”
“I wish I could be like Jeremy and rise above it, but I can’t!”
“I did set my alarm clock for an hour earlier, just so I could hate her for an hour longer!” he brought the house down:
Incredible support for Palestine in hall today with loads of flags, however it does seem wrong that people were prevented from holding up EU flags. Either all should be allowed or none. This evening I experienced my first bomb threat evacuation since the 80’s. Along with Sally Carter, I was intending on watching the premiere of “The Lynching of Jackie (Walker)” put on by JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour) but a phone call was made to the venue saying 2 devices had been placed there, so we had to evacuate. Rather than hang around I decided to go and join Joy, Debs and others at the Rally – “Towards A Socialist Labour Government” and oh boy was I glad I went.
An incredible speech by Richard Burgon had some in tears. I have followed him for some time – he is definitely one of our star MPs. He treated us to an impression of Dennis Skinner who could not make it.
We also heard from John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Chris Williamson and others. Of particular note was a speaker from “The Democratic Socialists of America”. DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. They believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. They are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus and community-based chapters, DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people. https://www.dsausa.org/
During my time at conference I did not directly witness any Anti-Semitism other than the bomb threat, however I am sad to report that two of our delegation did. We must be vigilant in not allowing our support for the Palestinians in Gaza to be hijacked by those who perpetuate AS and Racism from within our party. We must always report anyone we witness expressing these vile views and they must be kicked out of our party. Criticism of the Israeli government’s actions is valid as not only do they attack and kill those trapped in Gaza, but they also attack and imprison their own citizens, mainly anti-Zionist orthodox Jews who refuse conscription into the Israeli forces and oppose the support given by Netanyahu to AS governments such as Oban in Hungary.
Day 5 Wednesday 26th September – Last Day
Some of you will be wondering what happened to our motion. Well due to the mysterious ways the Labour party works it will be discussed next year. I think it is a hard sell to the membership, in particular the young. The party needs to speed up its processes if it wants to keep everyone on board. For a new member as well as us who have been around for a couple of years the processes appear archaic. Members want action now, not in two years’ time. Hopefully the New Left-wing NEC and CAC will improve things soon. The young members need to be engaged, fully. In today’s connected world they expect action now.
Cannot believe it is last day of conference, there’s so much I would like to have done. There were speeches by
Jonathan Ashworth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvxAklg9NnU&t=9s
Jeremy Corbyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJO1iiOXWr4 .
Surprise star turn today was the legend that is the Beast of Bolsover – Dennis Skinner who was not on the agenda but who put his hand up to speak. He was of course called up and told us how the NHS had saved him. Watch the video if you haven’t yet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTVMDzJFdag
For full information on conference go to https://labour.org.uk/conference/at-conference/annual-conference-2018-reports/ .
Thank you, North Cornwall CLP, for allowing me to represent you at conference this year. Hopefully by next year’s conference we will be celebrating our first few months in government. The passion of those who spoke from the stage from all groups, Young Members, Disabled Members, LBGT Members, BAME Members, The Unions, Our MP’s was amazing. I am proud to be a member of this party, we will together transform Britain For The Many not The Few.
I will get around to editing and posting videos that I took they will be available on my You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChNZSCsWVwSWJuam8-BG3gg/featured?view_as=subscriber
Links to Full You Tube Conference Videos
Dawn Butler’s full speech to Woman’s Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRbuwZiarb8
Jeremy Corbyn’s full speech to Woman’s Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7b_3MqFCfU
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Sunday Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHmLm9G-EBg
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Sunday Afternoon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rbHsxlBBao&t=222s
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Monday Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfpZRff_I3Q
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Monday Afternoon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8u9rEevA-Jc
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Tuesday Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYFK7EgxTtU
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Tuesday Afternoon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A87g5JGNEVI
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Wednesday Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n2N9FvAMno
Labour Party Annual Conference 2018: Leaders Speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2DYTKkUmi0