Labour Party Conference 2016 – Report From The Floor

Earlier this year, full of the giddy political excitement that I greet so many things with, I put myself forward as a nomination for this year’s Labour Party Delegate and was elected (though in fairness I should point out that no one stood against me…read of that what you will)! As the weeks ticked by my excitement grew (and in fairness again, the thought of 5 nights away in a hotel without a toddler waking me up every night was more than appealing…) but then that “thing” happened in the summer, ok well actually there were a couple of “things”, take your pick, it was definitely starting to take the edge of my excitement about attending conference for the first time and was replaced with “what on earth was I letting myself in for”?

So the first duty of being at Conference should have been to head to the Women’s Conference but there was this small event beforehand known as the Leadership Result. Sat waiting in the auditorium, I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty sick. Social media was awash with leaked results and I really wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it. Jeremy and Owen entered the stage and before you could blink the results had been announced with Jeremy winning by a rather hefty majority. Jeremy did a speech, people left and that was that then. After months of build-up, after all the stress that has accompanied it, all of the online abuse it all felt very underwhelming if I’m honest. I headed off to the Women’s Conference and it barely seemed like the leadership result even happened. The conference opened up with a speech from Harriet Harman and then there wasn’t a dry eye left in the house after Jess Phillips’ moving and beautiful tribute to Jo Cox. I found the Open Mic session to be the most interesting and inspiring; so many women from all over the country speaking concisely, articulately on a range of subjects that they felt passionate about. I’m always reluctant to make speeches but I hope that as my confidence grows in this area that I’ll be able to stand up and do something similar next time I attend.

Sunday was a bit of strange day at Conference. I don’t have anything to compare it to but the atmosphere was somewhat flat. With the leadership elections now over I was expecting perhaps a celebratory atmosphere but there wasn’t, instead everyone seemed very cautious with each other, it seemed very business as usual and left very little room to be inspired by anything. It also coincided with me attending two Fringe events that were my least enjoyable of the conference and also not being able to get any Vegan food to eat the whole day. I returned home to my hotel room at 9pm with a bag of chips wondering if this was what conference was going to be like for the next 3 days and if there was any way I could feign illness and go home early!?

Monday things changed. The day started off somewhat bizzarely with lots of commotion and excitement over the CAC Report, with numerous people shouting for “card votes”. We then moved onto some really passionate speeches from Emily Thornburry, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Clive Lewis – it really felt like the Labour Party was back doing what it should be doing, demonstrating positive policies and holding the Tories to account. Lots of delegates were also getting the chance to speak and just like with the Women’s Conference Open Mic session, I really found it very interesting to hear the challenges and adversity that other people were facing around the country, the actions that they were personally taking and how this could feed back into policy making in the Labour Party.

That evening I attended the Labour Animal Welfare Society talk where not only were we treated to Vegan food (seriously, a room full of happy well fed Vegans is a great place to be…) we were also able to see the Animal Welfare Policy document. This is the first time a policy document like this has been produced for the Labour Party (and it was the only policy document I actually saw at Conference) and I personally think it has some brilliant policies contained in it that fit in with so many other areas. I will be doing some work on collecting feedback about the policy document locally for LAWS, so if you are interested in this please contact me. The fringe event was then followed by the infamous LAWS Karaoke Event which was a lot of fun!

Tuesday started in a similar fashion to Monday with calls for a “card vote” again and again it was turned down. Tuesday really was for me about 3 particular speakers. The first being Angela Rayner who I had heard speak a couple of times at the Womens Conference and her speech on the Tuesday on Education was fantastic. On a personal level it is very inspiring to see a shadow cabinet member who you can personally resonate with: I was a teenage mum, I didn’t complete a University Education, life has sometimes been tough. Angela reminds us that the people who represent us in the House of Commons shouldn’t just represent us with the words they say but also in their actions and their life experiences. Then there were the fantastic speeches from Sadiq Khan and Tom Watson. I don’t really need to say a great deal about them as I’m sure you’ve seen them yourself. Tuesday left me feeling like we really do have a strong powerful Labour Party, whom can resonate with the people at home and I really hope that over the next weeks and months, those messages and voices get out there.

I went to some great fringe events on the Tuesday looking at Local Governance and the differences we can make locally, which is so important in areas like Swindon where we are winning council seats from the Conservatives, but also where Labour areas aren’t connecting with the ideas from Westminster, where they voted to Leave the EU, where they feel they’ve been left behind – we as a party need to be reconnecting with these voters.

After such a fantastic day and night on Tuesday, I felt really sad that Wednesday was my last day (ironic considering on Sunday I wanted to go home)! The conference floor was debating child refugees which is an issue close to many of our hearts and we had some fantastic speeches from Yvette Cooper, Lord Dubs and Stella Creasy.

The day then finished with the leader’s speech from Jeremy Corbyn and it was an excellent, thoughtful speech which I hope will start to mend the divisions of the past few months bringing us all back together to do what matters, fight for a better, fairer country for everyone and continue to hold the Tories to account.

I met so many fantastic people at conference who really have restored my faith (that has been bashed quite considerably over the past few months) in the Labour Party and what we can achieve. It really invigorated my passion for the party again which is really what I hoped I would get from conference and I can’t wait to get stuck my into CLP duties and local campaigning again. I would like to thank South Swindon Labour Party for letting me represent you there and bring on Conference 2017 in Brighton!