Firstly I would like to give my thanks to my South West Devon comrades for electing to send me as your delegate to Regional Conference. It was an enjoyable, interesting and, hopefully for both the CLP as well as myself, valuable experience.
This was the 2019 conference but, due to the late 2019 General Election (GE2019), did not actually take place until February 2020, having originally been scheduled for November 2019.
Chair’s Welcome & Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) Report
There is little of note to report from this, other than we were informed that Jenny Formby (Labour General Secretary), who had originally been scheduled to give a talk, was unable to attend for health reasons. The room joined in wishing her a speedy recovery.
Thangam Debbonaire MP
The MP for Bristol West gave a speech thanking everyone for their efforts during the 2019 GE2019 campaign. She advocated for a period of outward-facing reflection and a display of unity. She referenced the former MP for Stroud, David Drew, and spoke favourably about the work that he had done during his time as an MP. She said a focus for the next 4-5 years would be converting/winning back those who had cast their votes for the Conservatives in GE2019.
Greg Cook – Former Head of Political Strategy
Greg gave an interesting talk on the results of the General Election with a heavy focus on data. This was not dissimilar in its approach to the talk that our Constituency Labour Party (CLP) enjoyed from Will Hay at its February meeting. Greg expanded on the point that Thangam had made regarding the conversion of Tory votes and illustrated this using various statistics from previous General Elections.
He accredited the significant Labour vote gain in GE2015 to the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, with the South West region typically being a stronger performing area for the Liberal Democrats.
Looking forward, he said any future Constituency Boundary Review was likely to have a negative effect on Labour’s electoral efforts under a First Past the Post (FPTP) system. No boundary changes are yet to be confirmed but Greg expects that the Conservatives may amend relevant legislation to maintain the number of MP seats at 650 (as opposed to the original proposal to reduce to 600).
A request came from the floor for the presentation to be distributed to CLP Secretaries, which it was confirmed would happen.
Community Organising – Louie Herbert & Tom Goodwin
This session was split, with attendees having the option of the community organising working group, or further discussion in the Main Hall on the GE2019. I opted for the Comminuty Organising group as I felt this was something that would be particularly relevant to our CLP.
The session was entitled ‘How to run a listening campaign to build power’. There were some interesting concepts that were discussed during the session which I will be happy to share further details of with comrades at our next meeting(s).
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Opposition
Jeremy began his address by giving thanks to Marvin Rees, Bristol City Mayor, and Dave Drew, former MP for Stroud.
He highlighted the significant gap in funding for Local Authorities under the conservative government and the low wages paid in the South West region, with 700,000 workers in the region being paid less than £10 per hour.
He reaffirmed the public support that exists for Labours policies, despite the GE2019 result.
The need to raise the profile of environmental issues was also raised and he spent a significant amount of time talking on this – both from a local and global perspective.
Jeremy rounded off his speech by thanking everyone in attendance for their efforts generally but in particular during the GE2019 campaign. Conference joined in thanking him in return and giving him a standing ovation.
After his speech there was a brief Q&A session with the Mayor Marvin Rees. There were no particularly notable questions asked or answers given during this session.
I spoke with Jeremy briefly afterwards to reiterate the thanks that Conference had offered him and to extend an invitation to visit South West Devon. He assured me that he intended to visit all of the areas that he was unable to get to during the GE2019 campaign, and that he was familiar with the trains to all of them!
Working Group Training Session – Training Needs for your CLP
Again this section of the day was split into two separate events, the other being a Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO) event.
There were some useful bits of information/resources gained from this session, links to which are at the end of this section.
A number of different suggestions were made throughout the course of the session, but in particular, common areas that were identified for training were:
- Training on what Officer roles entail, their responsibilities and how to execute them effectively
- Training on the use of the various software programmes available to role holders including Organise, Contact Creator and Insight
- Training for prospective Parish/Town/City Councillor candidates on what the role can entail, how to get elected and the skills required to be effective at the role
- Effective communication training for both internal communications (e.g. using Labour Party tools to communicate with members) and external communications (use of Social Media, making press contacts etc.)
It was also mentioned throughout the session that there should have been an IT survey sent recently to Secretaries and possibly some other role holders requesting feedback on current systems and how they could be improved.
Paul Upex, Labour training staff member, made attendees aware of the regular webinars that he runs. Details can be found at www.labour.org.uk/members/activist-area/training/training-webinars/
Other useful links (some require you to be logged in using your member details):
Weekly Bulletin: https://action.labour.org.uk/page/content/training-emails
Training Page: www.labour.org.uk/training/
Activist Hub: www.labour.org.uk/activist-hub/
e-Learning Platform: http://achieve.labour.org.uk
Campaign Technology Information: www.labour.org.uk/campaigntechnology
Results of the Regional Executive Committee
Phil Gaskin, Regional Director, gave an overview of the changes to the Regional Executive Committee before announcing the results of the elected positions:
Cornwall: Jayne Kirkham & Deborah Hopkins (uncontested)
Devon: Liz Pole (42%) & Chris Cuddihee (29%)
Dorset: Patrick Osborne & Pauline Haynes (uncontested)
Former County of Avon: Zoe Goodman (45%) & Liz King (35%)
Gloucestershire: John Bloxsom & Mirium Yagud (uncontested)
Somerset: Kama Hannah McKenzie (46%) & Sean Drongoole (29%)
Wiltshire: Claire Moody (39%) & Rachael Ross (39%)
BAME: Tanbir Siddique (70%)
Disability: Mary Aspinall (41%)
LGBTQ+: Alex Beverly (86%)
Women’s: Misri Dey (29%)
Youth: Danny Barnes (40%)
Where the CLP had indicated support for a specific candidate, I cast my vote accordingly. For positions where the CLP had not expressed a preference, I cast my vote based on the candidate statements made available to me in the candidate handbook.
A number of motions were put to Conference as follows. My vote is indicated by [For] or [Against], where applicable.
GMB Wales & SW – Domestic Abuse [For]
This motion called for conference to support the adoption by employers and, in particular, all Labour-controlled Local Authorities, of GMB’s domestic abuse pledge and Model Workplace Policies. A number of survivors spoke in favour of the motion.
Various CLPs – Rural Labour Manifesto [For]
This motion called for the creation of a Rural Labour manifesto, branding and campaign strategy to be produced in addition to the holding of a Rural Labour conference.
USDAW – Save our Shops [For]
Motion calling for Labour to implement a strategy aimed at supporting shops and high streets through various tax reforms, skills training, employee rights and cooperation between various bodies.
Bridgwater & W Somerset CLP – Proportional Representation
I had planned to speak in favour of this motion as I felt that it recognised the limitations of the generic party lists style PR, whilst seeking to address the inherent flaws of the FPTP model. However, the motion was disallowed due to no representative from the CLP being present to move it.
Taunton Deane CLP – Fair Shares & Fair Representation for the Regions [For]
Motions calling for Labour to advocate for and develop policy to support changes to democratise and empower regional decision making.
Salisbury CLP – Child Poverty
This motion was remitted to the Regional Executive owing to some disparity between the actual wording of the motion and the intention of the mover of the motion. An amendment to the motion was proposed but the Chair of the CAC advised that motion amendments were not permitted but that conference could:
- Accept a clarification from the mover of the motion
- Propose that the motion be remitted to the Regional Executive for consideration
Results of election of Regional Executive Committee Vice Chairs
As only one woman (Jayne Kirkham) was standing, she was elected to one of the two positions uncontested.
The remaining position was between Sean Dromgoole and Neil Guild. The latter was elected.