London Labour Conference

Gary Heather, CWU delegate (personal capacity) reports:GaryH

The London Labour Party Biennial Conference 2013 was held at Stratford Town Hall on Saturday 16 February.

This well attended meeting was opened by the chair Len Duvall. Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, welcomed delegates from CLPs, trade unions and other affiliates by saying that “investing in people” must be Labour’s priority — mentioning specifically free school meals, the London Living Wage, bringing council services back in-house and enforcement of the national minimum wage as examples of this.

The priorities ballot held prior to conference selected Housing, Investing in the London Economy and NHS for debate. In the housing debate, all the motions were carried. They encompassed measures for tackling the housing crisis in London, including building more council housing, capping rents, “social rents” not “affordable rents”, effective regulation of private sector housing with rent controls and better security of tenure, and tackling low wages and extending the London Living Wage. Conference also called for an end to “rogue landlords” and improved planning rules to facilitate many more homes at social rents, with co-operative and mutual housing schemes as part of the solution to the housing crisis. And conference, in noting the dire situation in London arising from Housing Benefit cuts, agreed a conference of Labour’s elected representatives and affiliates should be convened within six months to determine the way forward.

In his address to conference, Iain McNicol, the Labour Party general secretary, said he wanted to reform the Party to give members much more say and input into party affairs — most members would certainly welcome that. For many years housing has been the main debate at London conference, but this year the crisis in the NHS proved even more critical with four emergency motions on top of the Defending London’s NHS motion being debated and carried. The debate — extended into the afternoon — made it clear that delegates were totally opposed to the Tory government’s back door marketisation and privatisation of the NHS, and conference called for a London demonstration to oppose these Tory attacks.

Lunch-time fringe meetings were held on public ownership and “Working to win a real Labour victory”. Five workshops took place covering organising in elections and in the community, on campaigning priorities and on becoming a councillor.

A motion on Investing in the London Economy was carried, as was an emergency motion in support of the London Fire Service. The left made gains in the elections to the London Regional Board. And conference closed with comrades singing The Red Flag.

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