Conference: a formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days. (Oxford Languages/Google)
I am preparing to go to the Labour Party conference as a delegate and when I tell people about this I get mixed reactions.
Reactions about attending the Labour Party conference
From some, I get an exclamation of delight and then good advice about how to experience as much as I can of the varied talks, ready to return with knowledge to further our local goals of engaging our community.
From a couple, I am asked whether I can just mention a particular issue, or chat with a particular shadow minister.
It might well be that I could ask to speak on a topic, but actual motions are thought about, discussed and voted upon in our constituencies long before the conference happens so that the people get a democratic right to be heard, as much as possible. It’s not just a group of people turning up for a chat, though networking is a very valuable activity.
Public distrust in politics
From others I get raised eyebrows, followed up by an explanation that they know what will go on at conference – the drinking, other recreational exploits – and then come the affirmations of what a ‘good time’ I’ll have. This gives me a sinking feeling and I am incredulous at the image of this important political event.
When I think it through, though, I cannot blame people for their reality TV type view of what goes on in politics. What have we heard over the last few years but saying one thing and doing another, drinking and partying whilst others mourn, flexing the rules for some and harsh penalties for others. There is a systemic mistrust of those in power over all strata of society it seems, and many are left wondering who they can trust for real help and guidance. Sadly this patriarchal and privileged ethos seemingly comes from Westminster.
Motive for attending the conference
I can tell you now that I am going to the Labour Party conference with an agenda of my own.
I want to find out what is being said about rural poverty, whether we are acknowledged as being a viable Labour area (whether the Thirsk and Malton is acknowledged as being a viable Labour constituency) and whether those of us who believe in a Socialist community will get representation.
I want to talk about how transport and communication in rural areas might be supported, updated, and work for everyone so that young people can get to training and jobs, and everyone can access NHS appointments.
I want to know why our medical services are being stealthily privatised and how this can be changed. I want to know when we will get more early years childcare help, support for the many children who are living in poverty, as well as day centres for the elderly.
Will the farmers finally be supported to break free from the still ongoing serfdom in some rural areas to be able to earn a proper living and maybe return to the EU values that protect them? Or will some continue to have their tenancy taken away, leaving them without a home or job unless they can diversify or find an alternative?
Will houses be built in our area that are affordable for our local young families and individuals so that we don’t see a migration of skills and education?
How will we be tackling climate change and work towards net zero whilst taking an austerity-stricken population with us?
I want to emphasise that these are the many ideas buzzing around in my head, and I have no doubt that I may be mistaken in some of them, but that is why we need to talk and listen. I am sure I will not get answers to all my questions, but I want to learn as much as I can about the priorities of the Labour Party and the consequences for rural North Yorkshire.
Overwhelmed … but optimistic
I am optimistic. At first I was very overwhelmed by the many fringe events as well as main hall debates, motions and speeches. However, I think the truth is that I think I am picking up that the country is overwhelmed and I am determined to change this to excitement – both for me as I prepare, and for the country going forward. There is much to discuss!
I am not going in an accusatory role; after all, it is the Conservatives who have been in power for the last 13 years and who have instigated the erosion of our communities throughout the country. I am confident that the Labour Party will be there to offer a real alternative and hope for society in general.
A serious event
I will socialise but let’s keep this in perspective: I have to eat and it will be good to make new friends with likeminded people.
It is not a circus, but a serious political event which will set out the intentions and promises of our Labour manifesto. It is a large meeting of those who obviously will not all completely agree but who are likeminded ready to serve the communities around Britain and find a better way to live.
We have heard ideas this week from the Conservative conference and we have witnessed climate promises being overturned, harsh accusations aimed at migratory people and trans people, and uncertainty about HS2 dressed up as the prime minister having to look at the details before committing to policy. It might look, to some, like a pantomime. Oh, yes it does! This, I am sure, will not be how we conduct ourselves in Liverpool. Of course, there will be high spirits and happiness at being together on this important occasion, but, please, put away any glossy unrealistic razzmatazz ideas about what this extremely important meeting is about.