Sunday, 26 September 2010

Labour Conference 2010: Campaign for Labour Party Democracy Rally

In a lively and well-attended Campaign for Labour Party Democracy rally Ken Livingstone heralded Ed Miliband’s victory as “the end of New Labour” and challenged the Labour left to win the economic debate within the party. Livingstone pledged to run his mayoral campaign “as a referendum that says ‘no more cuts’” and secure the mandate to protect public services and jobs within London.

Michael Meacher MP declared that David Milband had the support of both the New Labour establishment and New Labour money “but we still beat the bastards”. Meacher challenged the idea propagated by the media that Ed Miliband is beholden to the unions by citing his brother’s 147, 000 union votes in comparison to Ed’s 175, 000. Furthermore, Meacher contended that a trade union movement incorporating over 7 million people was much more representative and democratic than any of the mainstream political parties.

The CLPD – buoyed by having 19 candidates elected to the National Policy forum – laid down the gauntlet to Ed Miliband to secure a democratic party proud of its union link and prepared to trust its members. The broad left pledged to support and unite around Miliband but, at the same time, make demands and expand the area of debate. Kelvin Hopkins MP applauded Diane Abbott’s leadership campaign and praised her for “shifting the platform of debate to the left” by raising issues such as Trident and the re-nationalisation of the railways. Hopkins criticised “the Nuremburg rally style leadership” of New Labour and urged Ed Miliband to re-connect and re-engage with the party.

Chair of the NEC Ann Black criticised the leadership’s gerrymandering of selection processes as the CLPD called for conference to regain policy control. Mohammed Azam declared that widening engagement within the party can help attract black, minority and ethnic candidates – not to mention LGBT activists. Azam argued that only by engaging BME groups and responding to their needs can the Labour Party defeat the far right. Hence, widening the sphere of party democracy is not just about grassroot influence on policy and leadership accountability, it has wider implications on the fight against the BNP and EDL.

Hopkins and Meacher attacked ConDem economic policy and predicted that cutting state spending would increase the deficit as higher unemployment would result in a higher benefit bill and a fall in tax revenue. Both argued that Labour’s economic strategy should focus on taxing the rich and expanding the economy through investment. Meacher highlighted the 8000 people on the waiting list for council housing in Oldham and contended that the state is obligated to act when the private sector cannot provide for citizens.

Much of the rhetoric focussed on typical leftist bugbears with the private finance initiative dismissed as “a shameful episode” but Compass Youth Officer Kat Smith urged the left to learn from New Labour’s mastery of presentation in order to forward its aims. The CLPD are clearly optimistic about the future of the Labour Party, but the consensus that “New Labour is dead” may prove premature. New Labour may be terminally ill but it isn’t dead yet – and sometimes wounded animals have the worst bite. The Labour left will only succeed if it remains united, proactive and continues to articulate a credible alternative to monetarism.

1 comment:

Pete @ Eyes on Power said...

The counter argument has already started. It revolves around that a left shift would take the party to a 1980s exile from power. The basis of this argument of course is that any left shift will be unfavourable to the electorate no mater what form it takes.

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