Report from London Regional Conference November 2017

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The London Regional Conference took place last weekend at the Congress Centre in Central London. Cities of London and Westminster CLP sent five delegates to Conference. Here one of our delegates Kate Landin writes on her experience at Conference:

I was one of five delegates at the conference, and I am sure all who attended will be giving their impressions, and detailing events/discussions that they were part of. So I am presenting here some of my personal highlights and the events that I participated in.

The conference was opened by Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council, who spoke of the changes and new enthusiasm in the Labour movement, and how it was now a very real possibility to have a labour government in power, under the inspiring leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

At the beginning of proceedings proper, it was suggested from the floor that there was now space on the agenda to take the rule change motion, that had been suggested by a number of constituencies, but originally not taken. This was due to training being cancelled. It was moved from the floor that this would be on the agenda for Sunday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke about Labour achievements in London under his mayorship. He was received with some warmth, and there was a lively discussion on how now was the time to solidify the many gains in the recent election, and build on what the electorate had told us, that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership had great resonance with the public, and we now have the real chance to bring a labour government into power.

Diane Abbott MP was received with great enthusiasm, and spoke with sensitivity and eloquence. She spoke about how the Labour Party could no longer take its BAME voters for granted,and had to take seriously issues of diversity and representation, and ensure we offer the support and respect that should be forthcoming from our inclusive and welcoming party. She emphasised the particular challenges in London, the rise in homelessness on our streets, and particularly the debate about housing. She reminded conference that those critics who say “how can we afford the massive programme of council property building that our city needs” that spending on housing, with council rents, is an investment, with a return - it will bring money into our economy, that goes into our economy, not into the pockets of private investors, and shareholders, but into council resources.

At lunchtime, I attended a fringe event on the Grenfell Tower disaster, where Matt Wrack (General Secretary for the FBU) spoke about the way that the ongoing process of the Grenfell enquiry was leaving residents alienated and distressed and angry, as the people on the board of the enquiry were seen to be people with no experience of the circumstances and environment in which residents lived, and were not seen as the best people to ascertain what had allowed this disaster to unfold. Emma Dent Coad MP spoke of the way in which Kensington and Chelsea residents had struggled to be heard by their Tory council, and how that was still the case, citing the notorious questionnaire where residents were asked “if Grenfell was still a priority issue”. She said that despite the public outrage at what happened, especially as time went on, it was becoming more difficult to be heard, and that her insistence on challenging the Council was resulting in all kinds of attacks on her.

There was a workshop on housing in the afternoon, chaired by GLA Member Tom Copley. Again, there was strong feeling from the floor - that Labour councils should not cooperate with regeneration projects that amounted to a form of social cleansing, and that Labour councils should resist at all points the so called “partnerships” that resulted in council housing being lost and not replaced, fight the lack of response to so called “consultations” , and make sure council tenants are able to remain in their communities. The Haringey Development Vehicle was spoken of as an outrage, and it was noted that David Lammy, MP, was strongly against it, It was reiterated that it is necessary to keep fighting these projects - wanting the best is not enough, you have to fight to make sure these things don’t happen.

On Sunday, the rule change motion was heard and debated as the first item on the Agenda.

The mood in the room was overwhelmingly positive, as it was felt that these rule changes would ensure more representation for CLPs and unions on the regional board, and address current outdated practice, wherein the outgoing Conference Arrangement Committee "appoints” the incoming Conference Arrangements Committee for the next conference. The rule changes passed with a large majority. This now goes to the NEC for approval.

Both the council housing motion and the private housing motion were passed, almost unanimously. I spoke on the council housing motion, arguing that council housing should be brought back into council hands, with its own workforce to build service and maintain it, with secure lifetime tenancies, proper jobs for those trained, high safety standards, and full accountability where it belongs, directly with the council who are elected by their constituents, and are therefore responsible to them, and not to investors and shareholders, whose only concern is profit. Though again, there is some room for improvement in both motions, both were passed to start initial work in the right direction.

The conference in all had an atmosphere of enthusiasm and application, great excitement about the upcoming council elections, and very much a sense that we are permanently on election footing, as an election may be called at any time, as the Tory government staggers from disaster to disaster. The Labour party has found its heart again, is on solid ground, and is ready to govern.

Kate Landin is Fundraising Coordinator for Cities of London and Westminster CLP

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