As the party conference season comes to an end, we look back at what went on in Manchester and Birmingham. Here, Alun Morgan looks at the events surrounding Labour’s conference.
Alun Morgan attended this year’s Labour Party conference in Manchester to help out on a stall. here are his thoughts about what went on:
I attended the 1985 LP Conference when the editorial board of Militant were expelled. At that conference there were big demonstrations of workers about issues concerning our class. At this conference there has been at most twenty souls campaigning outside: "Save the Bee, God Botherers,… ." However a dozen Remploy workers bravely stood in the rain making their case. At the 1985 Conference, delegates bags were searched and copies of Militant were confiscated. This year, the security was sophisticated - barcodes were swooped and your face was compared to their database of faces. This was followed by airport style X-ray machines but they didn’t bother to search for socialists papers.
By Wednesday I began to see real Labour Party delegates and union members who weren’t “suit men”. These suit men were minders for the shadow cabinet. They went around the Exhibition area with clip boards to organise their MP to visit a stand of a good cause for a photo and to “’press the flesh”. Some chatted with the people manning the stands but they were quickly whisked off to the next “photo opportunity”. Something I hadn’t experienced before was the huge proliferation of stands in the conference centre. Union stands, Labour Students, Labour Women, Socialist Societies, Morning Star were familiar but EON, Marks and Spencer’s (M&S), Post Office, and Charities such as AGE Concern and Parkinson’s UK were a novelty.
I spoke to taxi drivers and people on the stalls who tended to agree with my point of view, which can be summed up by my reply to a taxi driver’s question “what was the main theme of the conference yesterday?” My reply being “Talking Bollocks”, which granted isn’t a phrase Marx, Lenin or Trotsky would use but it helped open up a discussion on the failure of the leadership of the LP to support workers on strike.
On Thursday, I chatted to another taxi driver and explained that when asked on Breakfast TV about how wealthy he was, Ed choose not to answer the question even though a minute ago he had said that Cameron was very coy about revealing his fortune. Then followed a discussion about self-seeking politicians who didn’t live in the same world as the rest of us.
These conversations indicate to me that there is a seething anger at the feebleness of the Labour Party leaders and the hot-air and broken promises made by nearly all politicians.
Now for Ed’s one-hour speech.
Firstly I must admit that I didn’t listen to it but managed to get a copy of it from the Labour Student’s stand early on Thursday morning after they had a night of heavy drinking in the Labour Student’s Disco in town. It was £3 but there was no-one there to collect.
Ed was obviously trying to be a man of the people by the way he talked and the repeated phrases that he used. His speech was littered with phrases such as “you know…” He probably didn’t realize that he was lecturing supporters evidenced by “let me tell you…”, “I want to tell you…”, “ I say this..” and to make the audience believe that he listens you used the phrase “I want to talk to..”
Maybe it’s the way he speaks but the most likely explanation is that his speech writers were trying to cast aside the “pointed head, nerd, out of touch” persona and make him into something he is not and never will be that is a Charismatic Leader. (Let alone a class fighter – this does not form part of their mind-set.)
“One Nation” is the new mantra. Before it was “New Labour” and before that a “Fairer Britain” they all amount to the same philosophy of “there is no them and us”. The Super rich are people, the school cleaners are people, and the royal family are people so we should all muck in together evidently.
The following extracts are taken from the speech:
“His name was Benjamin Disraeli. He was a Tory. But don’t let that put you off. …His speech took 3 hours…It was a vision of Britain. A vision of a Britain where patriotism, dedication to the common cause … Disraeli called it One Nation…. And here is the genius of One Nation. It doesn’t just tell us the country we can be. It tells us how we must rebuild’
One Nation tells us nothing. Nor does it tell us how to rebuild.
It is a meaningless phrase to fool labour supporters about the working of Capitalism. It is a throwback to the 19th century. Genius – more like stupidity. Ed is just peddling out the same old nonsense about classless society. In my view the mantra should be “One Class, the working class.”
I went through Ed’s speech to find out what the next Labour Government would do:
• We have got to live within our means
• We’d put jobs before pay
• Tough settlements for Public Services
• I would never cut taxes for millionaires and raise them for ordinary families This is wrong
• We must be the party of the private sector
• The next Labour Government will once and for all ensure that the high street bank is no longer the arm of a casino operation and we will break you up by law
• Let’s refound the rules of the game
• We will end shady practices in the construction industry
• We need a system of immigration that works
So no promises about:
• Withdrawing the troops in Afghanistan
• Renationalising the Railways and the utilities
• Reversing the cuts in benefits for disabled people
• Building homes
• Nationalising the Banks
• Ending Trident
• Kicking out the private sector from the NHS
• Raising the minimum wage
• Holding an inquiry into the Pension schemes
The content was about his life skipped the years at Corpus Christi College Oxford, LSE, Harvard and Primrose Hill Primary School whilst he made great play of going to Comprehensive, nor did he mention that he worked as a television journalist and then a Labour Party researcher, before rising to become one of Gordon Brown’s confidants and Chairman of HM Treasury’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The promises made were without substance, the only promises that will be carried out will b tough settlements for the public sector
It is a truism that Marxism is the memory of the working class. Without this we would go along with the many believing everything we are told by these well-meaning, do-gooders who have never experienced the class struggle.
The worst moment was when Lord Sebastian Coe walked on to the Platform, have the leaders got not understanding that you don’t parade the class enemy at a party conference and then waste what seemed like two hours parading the Olympians.
To sum up: This was not a conference for action but a conference to give some people chance to voice their ideas, a conference to fool people with vacuous speeches.