Good news, bad news

Ian Malcolm-Walker, Bournemouth West CLP, offers his impressions of Labour Conference.

First the good news; Conference unanimously called on the next government to “liberate the NHS from exorbitant PFI charges”. It was a victory over control freakery that took over two hours and two adjournments to composite. The first official draft did not even mention PFI despite fourteen out of seventeen motions using those words.

Despite it not being on the agenda, Conference then registered its opposition to ATOS and the mess that is the Work Capacity Assessment of Employment and Support Allowance. Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham also pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care Act

Talking of Ed Miliband, it was good to hear him proudly assert his comprehensive roots. If he means to speak up for ordinary working people and their families – great. If he intends to pander to sections of the Tory vote rather than fight for the active support of the Labour base, that’s less welcome.

On the downside, fixes by the party apparatus still happened. Some 61 contemporary resolutions, including a mass on rail privatisation, were ruled out of order. Attempts to refer back were called defeated by the Chair and a card vote denied. All CLP rule changes were deemed out of order because the affected parts of the rulebook had been altered in the last three years, even though the proposals did not conflict with those changes.

When we have big opinion poll leads, such as 30% on health and 8% on transport, we should use that trust to promote radical alternatives and increase those leads. The economic crisis needs to be the reason for adopting bold measures, not the excuse for abandoning them.

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