CPLD held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday 19 February at Conway Hall in central London. Given that the date clashed with Ken Livingstone’s Progressive London conference at Congress House nearby, it was good to see so many Labour Party (LP) activists opting to attend our conference.
Pete Willsman, CLPD secretary, started the proceedings with a report on the activities of CLPD over the last 12 months. Pete, who narrowly missed being re-elected to the LP National Executive Committee (NEC) last year, reported on CLPD support for Diane Abbott as our first preference in the leadership election, with Ed Milliband our second preference recommendation. Reporting on last year’s LP conference, Pete said it was disappointing to see constitutional amendments ruled out of order, but CLPD successfully supported One Member One Vote (OMOV) for the National Policy Forum (NPF), which should open up opportunities for left candidates standing in future. Pete also discussed CLPD rule changes for LP conference in Liverpool this September, including a new clause 4 and direct amendments to annual conference.
Christine Shawcroft (NEC member) gave the NEC and NPF reports. Christine reported on the NPF held on 10 November last year. She told us that it was fascinating to hear ex-ministers pointing out the mistakes made by the last government, and Christine wondered way they did not point them out at the time. She felt the contributions from new leader Ed Milliband and Peter Hain were generally positive regarding the NPF, and urged all LP members to send in submissions to polices to the next NPF to be held in the summer.
Kelvin Hopkins MP gave the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) report. Kelvin told us we were now seeing the end of New Labour, and that around 90 of the 100 MP’s who lost their seats in the last general election were Blairites. The defeat of David Milliband for leader should be regarded as a major success for the left. His view is that many of the new Labour MP’s are more centre-left, and this made for a more positive atmosphere in the PLP.
Former LP General Secretary Jim Mortimer led the discussion on strategies for resisting the government’s ant-cuts agenda. Jim pointed out how the cuts will cause a massive rise in unemployment, whilst at the same time we see a single bank awarding 2,200 of its employees’ bonuses averaging at £226,000 each. There is an enormous need for a dramatic increase in affordable house building which is completely at odds with the cuts. A very lively debate followed on how the Labour Left should respond to the cuts and the role Labour councillors should play.
Ex-Tribune editor Mark Seddon said the Coalition government was staggering from crisis to crisis and that Britain had not escaped from the polices of Thatcher. The anti-trade union laws remain, and Labour must show more political opposition to the government. Labour must also develop an alternative economic strategy. The government has just one course, to reduce the deficit and assume the private sector will lead recovery, with Britain being the only country in Europe to take this position. Mark also said the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum was a miserable little compromise for the Liberals’ role as junior partners in government.
AV led to some debate on the issue, with CLPD confirming its opposition and calling for a No vote in the referendum.
Following regional reports Tosh McDonald, vice-president of ASLEF, spoke on trade union issues and defending the Trade Union/Labour link. Tosh told us ASLEF had supported Diane Abbott in the leadership election, with a turnout in the ballot of its members of 25.4%. ASLEF held member workshops to encourage members to become involved in the LP. ASLEF believe in a resolution based LP conference and stronger links between the Party and the unions. They also believe the LP should commit to bringing back all rail franchises into public ownership. ASLEF see themselves as a firm but critical friend of Labour, and that Ed Milliband can move us in the direction ASLEF seek.
The final session of the day was to debate eight resolutions put to the AGM. This resulted in some extremely lively discussions. Motions included opposing Trident and CLPD’s continuing commitment to oppose AV.
Mick Loates, CLPD Press Officer