Post Conference Briefing
Parliamentary and Political Officer, LCER
LCER's 2019 Fringe
Working with Make Votes Matter, our fringe meeting attracted 135 people, despite the main Conference overrunning, and Compositing Meetings at the same time involving delegates and shadow ministers. Stephen Kinnock MP chaired the meeting, held in St Nicholas Church – cue lots of jokes about our platform being, like the Labour Party, “a broad church”. Joe Sousek began by launching the Report by Owen Winter: Peterloo 200: the path to proportional representation, which can be read here. We then heard from Faiza Shaheen, the CEO of CLASS (the Centre for Labour and Social Studies) and PPC for Chingford & Woodford Green (standing against Iain Duncan Smith), Emma Dent Coad MP (Kensington), comedian Eddie Izzard (stand up comic, actor, writer, and political activist), Mark Serwotka (General Secretary of the PCS Union), who emphasised participation and engagement, and Laura Parker of Momentum. Sarah Church, PPC for Swindon South (a target seat) spoke from the audience. We had apologies from Julie Ward MEP, who had attended our Delegates Briefing on Saturday morning and previously spoken at regional fringe meetings in Blackpool and Newcastle. Billy Hayes also sent his apologies with work necessitated by his newly reelected role on the Conference Arrangements Committee, dealing with Compositing meetings.
It is all about Democracy
Although not able to make our Fringe, our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell majored on “Democracy” in his major Conference speech the following morning: He quoted one of his professors, the late Sir Bernard Crick, as saying, “Socialism is the achievement of equality by democracy”. Sir Bernard was a LCER member and sponsor, influencing many students at Birkbeck and Sheffield Universities, and readers of his books, In Defence of Politics, Democracy: A Very Short Introduction and Essays on Citizenship. His students, David Blunkett introduced citizenship education, and now John McDonnell has promoted democracy and voting reform.
The publication of Peterloo 200 in many ways illustrated the progress made this year. Make Votes Matter now has a Labour Mobiliser, Caroline Osborne of Gosport CLP. Caroline organised our joint stall at Conference as she had at the Tolpuddle Festival in July. We had our Speaker’s Cards - Myths & Rebuttals – on our stall, and they are still available from us, as well as LCER pens, badges, and stickers asking to “Make My Vote Count”. Just write and ask for the number of copies you require: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report back from the Justice and Home Affairs Commission policy session Caroline Osborne reports:
"The seminar was reasonably well attended for an 8:30 am slot, with around 50 people, many more than 2018. Alice Perry chaired the seminar, with Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott (who arrived late) responding to subjects raised.
I was able to ask the question: "Why does Labour support FPTP [First Past The Post] when it enables a right wing bias, increases inequality, and allows a policy shift to the right?" I added that people had voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives in 15 out of 16 of the last general elections yet we have had a Conservative majority government for 63 per cent of that time. Research shows that countries that use PR have greater environmental controls, better trade union bargaining power and greater equality. Richard Burgon responded with a suggestion that FPTP had worked against Labour in the past, but he was worried about giving representation to the far right. Alice Perry responded to another attendees’ suggestion about decriminalisation of certain drugs by suggesting that they receive lots of submissions to the NPF about the subject, and that they also receive a huge number of submissions calling for electoral reform."
A big Thank You…
…goes to all those who spoke on our platform, to those who staffed our stall, all the hundreds of signups we got (welcome to our mailing list if you are receiving this for the first time), those who requested a speaker for their constituency or trade union meeting, those who volunteered to help us by becoming speakers, and those who raised voting reform on our behalf at other fringe meetings.
Other conference events
The Politics for the Many (Trade Unionists for Political Reform) “Transforming Power for a Real Democracy” also attracted an audience (as expected) in favour of changing our voting system. The panel included the Shadow Minister Jon Trickett, who has the constitutional portfolio as Shadow Lord President of the Council. He did not answer the question posed by our East Midlands Executive representative Ken Ritchie’s questions: why is this campaign focusing on House of Lords reform, when the most important issue of the day should surely be House of Commons electoral reform? But at the end in response to whether the voting system will be considered in Labour’s constitutional convention posed by Joe Sousek, Make Votes Matter, he replied “Yes. How can it not be?”. The Electoral Reform Society had their own fringe where Jess Garland spoke. You can read her article based on her speech at the fringe here. At another fringe meeting, Anand Menon spoke of his support for voting reform. When asked for his reasons, he referred us to a speech you can watch online here. Kim Leadbeater, sister of the late Jo Cox, spoke on the Mirror/UNITE fringe platform about having “More In Common”, at a fringe which showed videos of Britain Talks, the Mirror’s campaign for bringing people together. Beyond the Bubble, Ipsos MORI’s fringe event featured Lord Andrew Adonis, Jonathan Freedland (The Guardian) and Stephen Bush (New Statesman), all in favour of voting reform alongside University of Bristol academic, Paula Surridge, who we believe also supports reform. Housing minister John Healey MP (alas still a FPTP supporter) represented Labour on the panel. Read Theo Morgan's report.