The conference seemed to be full for most of the time with a lot of people wanting to get involved by speaking on motions. I understand in excess of 11,000 party members attended.
Unfortunately the management of speakers from the floor was somewhat chaotic and was no way as well managed as our own UNISON national conference. Many speakers were allowed to speak on subjects not relevant to the motion and regularly ran over time, with little or no intervention from the chair. I am proud to say that UNISON speakers were professional, stayed within the time limits and were relevant to the motions being debated.
We had a good number of speakers from UNISON by the end of the conference on a variety of motions. Firstly Ken Curran spoke about the cuts to vital public services and I spoke about cuts to policing and the privatisation of the probation service.
I enjoyed hearing from General Secretary Iain McNicol who spoke about the campaign around the last general election and Deputy Leader Tom Watson who attempted to encourage unity within the party. Both speeches were energetic and passionate.
On the Monday our General Secretary Dave Prentis opened up the debate on public sector pay demanding fair pay for all public sector workers – not just front line emergency services that we see on television, but ALL public sector workers.
A number of speakers quite rightly paid tribute to the outstanding work of the emergency services and other public sector workers involved in terrorist attacks in London and Manchester over the past year. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also paid tribute to other workers such as Transport for London who calmly led people to safety during the recent Parsons Green incident.
As you can imagine Brexit was a major issue at this year’s conference. Many delegates from the floor and speakers from the shadow cabinet spoke about Brexit and how they felt Labour should be approaching the issue.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the end of the conference was good; better than previous ones I thought. He said that Labour is on the threshold of power and has become the government in waiting. Like previous speakers he spoke about bringing the party together and unity; bring together the young and old together. Although I must I admit I expected to see far more young people at conference.
Corbyn put the Grenfell Tower tragedy at the heart of his speech arguing that tory deregulation and austerity contributed to the fire – a powerful message.
He made a number of policy commitments in his speech;
• Rent controls.
• Labour would ensure tenants are rehoused locally when estates are regenerated.
• Businesses will have to pay a bit more tax.
• Labour would scrap the public sector pay cap.
• Labour would change the law on organ donation so people are presumed to consent to donation unless they have opted out.
• Tuition fees would be abolished for both university and further education students.
• Reformed (improved) collective bargaining in the workplace.
• Re-commitment to re-take utilities into public ownership.
• Re-nationalisation of the railways.
Corbyn’s speech was bold and confident and was well received by conference. The majority of his speech was going over the current manifesto and contained some new policies that appeal to the public sector and low paid. Although he said in his speech that Labour is now the new political mainstream I think he missed an opportunity to speak to those outside of Labour’s fold and to businesses – to secure those much needed extra votes.