Thursday, July 21, 2005

Labour Representation Conference

by Caroline Colebrook

“DON’T try to tell us that the United States war in Iraq played no part in the London bombings,” said Labour MP John McDonnell, chair of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in his opening comments at its annual general meeting and conference in London last Saturday.
The conference, of left Labour Party members, MPs and trade unionists who want to restore the Labour Party to its original socialist roots, began with a minute’s silence in memory of those killed by bombs in London, Baghdad and Fallujah.
The New Communist Party is affiliated to the LRC as an associate organisation and four NCP delegates – Mike Fletcher, Ken Ruddock, Daphne Liddle and Andy Brooks – attended.
The morning session, chaired by LRC vice chair Maria Exall, of the conference dealt with domestic policy as laid out in a policy document with additional motions on defending the Royal Mail from privatisation, fighting civil service job cuts, rail safety and an emergency resolution on the London bombings.
Debate was launched by platform speakers Michael Meacher, National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear and Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack.
Michael Meacher spoke on the need for socialist ideology and stressed that a labour government should not be the servant of big business.
Matt Wrack spoke of the need to find a way for those who have left or disaffiliated from the Labour Party to be able to work together with comrades inside the party for common goals.
There were many contributions from the floor and a great sense of general agreement on all the issues being debated. The domestic part of the main policy statement and other motions were all passed unanimously.
One delegate from the RMT warned that the Government is trying to cut down on the number of safety reps on the Tube and reverse the regulations introduced after the Kings Cross fire. Risk assessment will be left to the discretion of station managers “leading to cost-driven corner cutting”.
This session ended with speeches from Katy Clark MP, Paul Mackney of the lecturers’ union Natfhe and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.
Paul Mackney attacked tuition fees, introduced by a government that includes many former radicals from the National Union of Students. He said this will lead to the exclusion of the working class from higher education “to the benefit of dimmer and dimmer members of the upper classes”.
The afternoon session covered foreign policy and the structural organisation of the LRC. The session was kicked off by Bob Wareing MP and veteran left Labour politician Tony Benn.
It covered nuclear weapons and Nato, support for Venezuela and the occupation of Iraq and then the LRC organisational statement.
Again, the main policy document, all resolutions and the LRC constitution were endorsed.
New Communist Party delegates made two interventions – on the need for solidarity and respect for the sovereignty of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in face of US aggression and on the need to work in trades councils.
Jeremy Corbyn MP made the final speech and the conference ended with the singing of The Red Flag. Throughout the conference all those attending were addressed as “comrade” and a genuinely comradely atmosphere prevailed.
There was little internal controversy as this new pressure group set itself in motion. Useful contacts were made, views and political papers were exchanged and delegates left having achieved important steps.