Yorkshire and Humber report
The first full NPF meeting since July 2014 was attended by approximately 150 representatives, about 75% of the NPF membership.
Ann Cryer, George McManus and George Norman attended from Yorkshire and the Humber. This is their joint report.
The day started with the election of Y& H CLP rep Ann Cryer as the new NPF Chair.
Jeremy Corbyn then addressed the NPF again reinforcing the importance of the NPF in the formulation of the next manifesto. He said he hoped we’d use the 10 pledges he made at annual conference as the basis for our deliberations in the run up to 2020, whilst understanding that there could be a General Election at any time. The NPF would have 8 Policy Commissions looking at every aspect of policy in the coming year.
He then fielded a series of questions ranging from Labour’s fiscal credibility with the electorate, developments regarding government cuts to infrastructure and what is now being called the ‘Northern Poorhouse’ and our approach to the Brexit result.
Glenys Wilmott MEP then conducted an interactive plenary on Brexit which highlighted the difficulties of Soft versus hard Brexit and the Government’s apparent determination to go down the hard Brexit route.
Over the course of the next 2 days, reps were invited to take part in up to 4 Breakout sessions and an Economic plenary discussion.
For my part (George M), I attended those on Transport and Housing,. Work and Pensions, The Economy and International issues.
All 4 Breakout sessions were attended by Shadow Cabinet members. Barry Gardiner MP reinforced his commitment to opposing fracking and developing an industrial strategy based on sustainable energy and policies. Yorkshire’s own John Healy MP reiterated our support for infrastructure development and constructive approaches to dealing with the massive housing crisis. Rebecca Long Bailey MP emphasised that austerity was a political choice which we reject and that equality should be at the centre of all we do. Emily Thornberry MP highlighted the challenges facing us post Brexit and the need to look at our defence commitments. She accepted that Trident, ‘will not and should not go away’ and that we shouldn’t be selling arms to regimes who then use them in breach of international law.
I (George N) attended sessions on 1) Early Years, Education and Skills, 2) Environment, Energy and Culture, and 3) Housing, Local Government and Transport. I’ve sat on the education policy commission for the past year, and it was good to see Angela Rayner MP stress the need for radical and bold action to systematically change the way our early years system works. I specifically raised the issues of the need for age appropriate fully inclusive and compulsory sex and relationships education in schools, and the need to tackle head on the pernicious PREVENT agenda at all levels, but especially in Early Years, where good schools are being failed for failing to adequately check that children and babies under five have not been ‘radicalised’. On the Environment, Rachael Maskell MP laid out the clear strategy and planning she and her team are putting in to mitigate and identify the dangers posed by brexit, and Tom Watson MP spoke of the problems he is facing in dealing with what he described as the ‘meccano set’ Department of Culture, Media, and Sport. The session on Housing, Local Government and Transport on Sunday morning dealt heavily with the feeling by the Unite delegation that their input from the previous day’s breakout session had not been properly recorded in summary documents, and would therefore be ignored. Jim McMahon MP and Andy McDonald MP both stated they would listen to opinions regardless. Much discussion was had over the Uber court case, the need to improve bus services, and the need to provide large levels of high quality social and council housing. I raised the specific issue of needing to force universities to provide cheaper accommodation blocks, fulfilling a social obligation to students from more disadvantaged backgrounds and helping alleviate problems surrounding high levels of HMOs.
Sunday afternoon we were all together again for the economy plenary which again was interactive, set out to analyse the key challenges in developing economic policy. These included reasons for low relative productivity, poor growth in the economy and the nature of our industrial strategy given the challenges which lie ahead.
All the outcomes of the discussions will be posted on the www.policyforum.labour.org.uk website and the Policy Commissions should all meet before if not immediately after Christmas.
There was a very good dinner provided for reps on the Saturday Night in spite of a live Strictly Come Dancing broadcast in the background, which allowed for networking with comrades old and new to the NPF process. The blood letting of the last 18 months appears to have subsided and there seems to be no appetite to repeat the disaster that was the leadership challenge of earlier this year.
The Party has undergone a lot of changes and many reps are on a strict learning curve but key is the leadership’s acceptance that our next manifesto should reflect the membership’s priorities. For this to happen will require engagement on the part of CLPs across the country and it’s hoped that finance might be made available to regional offices to prime and support engagement.
Please encourage everyone to visit the policy forum website and to contact their reps for further information and support. www.policyforum.labour.org.uk
NPF Rep Contact Details:
Ann Cryer email@example.com
George McManus firstname.lastname@example.org 07720 847819
George Norman (Youth Rep) email@example.com 07808 837233