In a personal view of Labour’s 2022 conference, Labour CND Vice Chair Christine Shawcroftsuggests it’s slipping back into being a leadership rally
I didn’t have very high hopes for this year’s Annual Conference, but even so I was bitterly disappointed. You’d think that the Forde Report had never even mentioned factional behaviour by Party staff, and certainly not pronounced it completely unacceptable. Several delegates found themselves suspended or even expelled in the run up to Conference, two north London CLPs with very large card votes found that all their delegates were barred from attending Conference, and even a newly elected NEC member found herself suspended. Again.
We campaigned for many years to transform Annual Conference from a leadership rally to a democratic, decision- making Conference. We managed to get rid of the pointless time-wasting videos, the sofa chats, the unamendable Policy Commission documents (not to mention the policy statements which had never been anywhere near the National Policy Forum) and make more time for debate from rank and file delegates. Yet it’s all creeping back – and when there was time allocated for debate, it became clear that PPCs were being called to speak much more frequently than ordinary delegates.
The ‘theme’ of Conference could have been ‘Rolling Back Democracy’. There was an NEC Rule Change for the constituency reps on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) to be elected by Conference delegates in future, instead of by a ballot of all members (usually called OMOV for One Member One Vote). The proof that this is a really backward step was shown on Tuesday, when the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) reps were elected by Conference delegates. The mis-named ‘Labour to Win’ faction had placed flyers calling for a vote for their candidates on the delegates’ seats. Now, leafletting inside the Conference centre is strictly prohibited by the Rules. Many times, I would try and sneakily give out CLPD leaflets, only to be stopped by Party staff. Putting leaflets out in the actual Conference chamber could not have been done in secret. After protests, there was an announcement from the platform the following day that there was to be no leafletting in Conference – coincidentally, there were no more elections left anyway.
However, the days weren’t all doom and gloom. The fringe meetings were often very useful, informative and inspiring. The CND fringe meeting was particularly good, with brilliant speeches from scientist and campaigner Stuart Parkinson, our dedicated supporter of peace and disarmament Jeremy Corbyn MP, and MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Beth Winter. Our own Kate Hudson had also been due to speak, but had been unable to get a train due to the intransigence and refusal to negotiate of Avanti North West. There was standing room only at the meeting, and many young people, lots of whom made good contributions when the meeting was opened to the floor. The chilling descriptions of what a nuclear war would actually be like exposed all the macho posturing and demands for leaders to say that yes, they would ‘push the button’ if it came to it. What they’re promising to do would destroy civilisation and possibly the human race as well.
‘The world order has been turned into a global free-for-all,’ Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary said in her speech to conference. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, however:
‘we will never as a party go back to supporting illegal, aggressive wars of intervention with no plans for the aftermath, and no thought for the consequences, whether in terms of the innocent lives lost or the ungoverned spaces created within which terrorist groups can thrive’
‘we must and will lead the world in promoting human rights, in reforming the arms trade, in pursuing an end to conflict, in supporting not demonising refugees, and in turning the promise of a nuclear-free world from an impossible dream to a concrete goal’
‘turning the promise of a nuclear-free world from an impossible dream to a concrete goal’.
Labour CND was out in force at Labour conference, visible throughout at CND, Momentum and other fringe meetings, distributing our newsletter and contact card, and helping staff the CND stall where we signed up dozens of new subscribers to our e-news updates. Our daily meet-up sessions proved popular too, chatting to delegates and visitors over coffee.
Contemporary motions are one of the few opportunities members have to influence conference agenda and the party’s policy making. We encourage you to submit a motion on behalf on LabourCND to help push nuclear disarmament higher on the agenda!
We have two suggestions this year: support for a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency – an urgent next step on the road to winning trade union support for scrapping Trident; and Reducing the risks of nuclear confrontation which calls for a Labour government to sign up to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Every CLP has the right to submit one contemporary motion of no more than 250 words, provided it hasn’t already submitted a rule change resolution in 2018. Motions must be sent to Labour HQ in time for the DEADLINE of noon on 13 September.
They must refer to an event that takes place after the publication of the National Policy Forum report in early August – any motion without a contemporary reference will be ruled out of order.
Labour Party Women’s Conference 2018 will take place on Saturday 22 September, the day before Annual Conference opens. This year CLPs and affiliates can submit a resolution for debate by the deadline of FRIDAY 29 JUNE. We encourage all CLPs to submit motions supporting the UN treaty for a global ban on nuclear weapons. Here’s an example from Finchley and Golders Green:
This Labour Women’s Conference:
Welcomes the efforts from North and South Korea to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
Congratulates ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2017.
Urges Labour women to read and disseminate the Nobel Lecture delivered by Beatrice Fihn and the Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow.
Notes that: a. 122 states adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 b. 58 states or more have signed this Nuclear Ban Treaty, including Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa c. Ratification by 50 signatories will bring the Treaty into force; at least 9 have already ratified.
Calls on Labour to support this urgent work to prevent accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons by pledging to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Labour CND has prepared two Contemporary Motions, which we hope Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) will submit for debate at the Labour Party conference. Please do take these motions to your CLP meetings – if the motions are chosen by delegates as one of the four for debate at the conference and passed, they should become Party policy! Please note there is a 250 word limit on motions submitted for conference.
The deadline for submission of Contemporary Motions is 14 September. It is therefore essential that your CLP meets to discuss this issue before that date. We need as many submissions as possible to ensure that we cannot be ignored by the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC).
Labour CND has prepared an anti-Trident motion for Labour Party conference delegates to vote on in September. Labour’s annual conference has avoided a vote on Trident for almost 20 years – previous motions have been ruled out. But with huge opposition to Trident amongst Labour Party members and the present leadership clearly opposed to Trident, Conference 2016 represents a strong opportunity.
A change in Labour Party policy on Trident would be a huge step towards stopping government plans to replace Britain’s nuclear weapons system. It would mean a future Labour government could stop the programme before hundreds of billions are wasted on a militarily useless weapon. It would also be a strong platform to construct a new foreign policy designed for the 21st century.
Although CLPs have not been holding meetings in recent months, meetings to consider matters relating to Conference will be taking place in the coming weeks. The text of the motion is below, if you have any questions please email email@example.com
Proposed United Nations conference on Nuclear Disarmament affects domestic policy
Conference notes on the 19 August 2016 the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament recommended that the General Assembly convene, in 2017, a conference to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. Conference condemns the United Kingdom boycott of the Open-Ended Working Group and calls on the Government to enter into negotiations in good faith to eliminate nuclear weapons around the world.
Conferences reaffirms its commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.
Conference recognises the strength of arguments against Trident from a financial point of view, and from the perspective of an assessment of the actual contemporary threats to British security, such as terrorism. Conference also accepts the compelling moral argument against the use of nuclear weapons.
Conference believes that defence diversification must be an urgent priority for the next Labour government. The next Labour Government must offer cast-iron guarantees on the security of related skilled employment, which is lacking from the existing ?Successor? programme. The priority must be to secure the employment for individuals and the future of the communities involved.
Conference therefore resolves: 1. That a Labour Government will cancel plans to replace Trident and engage in ongoing UN work towards a global nuclear weapons ban. 2. To instruct the NEC to immediately establish a ‘Shadow Defence Diversification Agency’ with trade union participation and which shall report annually to the Labour Party Conference until a Labour Government has set up a statutory Agency.