Labour Party Conference 2017

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.

A Day of Evacuations!

This year I am the UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside Delegate to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Conference 2017 – a first for me!

My journey to this years TUC in Brighton took me firstly to London; specifically Victoria Tube Station. Sadly as I arrived a passenger was fatally struck by a train on the northbound Victoria Line service, which caused an emergency evacuation that I was caught up in.

I’m sure you’ll agree that our thoughts have to go to the individuals loved ones and of course the train driver who will have no doubt been deeply effected by the incident.

It is sadly ironic that an hour earlier I had updated our UNISON branch social media about the fact the day was World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 including links to where people can get help and support. I’ve no information to confirm the incident was suicide, but quite often such incidents are.

If that was not enough I then arrived in Brighton with colleagues and trade unions from across the country and indeed the world for the start of the TUC Conference.

Towards the end of conference we were evacuated by the police and venue staff due to what we now know was a credible bomb threat to the Grand Hotel adjoining the conference centre. The weather was appalling as we made our way outside of the police cordons and road closures – many scattering to nearby local establishments!

We managed to get back to the hotel gone 10pm after police and bomb disposal had conducted a thorough search. I was not staying at the Grand, but my hotel was within the police cordon.

Statement by Sussex Police

The police and staff were this morning commended at the start of TUC Conference for the professional and calm manner they evacuated the area and kept everyone safe.