Andrew Lambirth, Chair of Canterbury Labour Party Branch reflects on Labour Party Conference 2017. The views expressed are Andrew’s own and may not reflect the view of other delegates from the Canterbury and Whitstable CLP

On Sunday morning, the Canterbury and Whitstable delegation, the majority of whom were conference newbies, collected their voting cards and took their place on conference floor.

Jeremy took to the podium with a standing ovation from all in the hall with chants of ‘Oh Jer-e-my Cor-byn’ from delegates and visitors alike. I’ve been sitting in the conference hall this week with the Secretary of the Canterbury Branch Derrie Clark and new Chair of Canterbury Momentum and Young Labour rising star Sarah Cundy. Eco-Warrior and prophet Peter Forest (see photo) has been a row ahead. The rest of the delegation was scattered around the stalls area of the enormous hall. This was a very well-attended conference. It looked very impressive.

The name of the game is unity from most speakers. This is a conference of a party preparing for power with a socialist program.  The delegates have been very circumspect about ensuring proceedings at conference have been fair. Good to see.

My main job on the Sunday was to cast the constituency delegation vote for the Priorities Ballot for debates in the hall over the coming days:

  • NHS
  • Housing
  • Social care
  • The Railways

These four were voted through. First victory.

‘What, no Brexit?’

Conference wanted to debate the vital issues of the NHS, housing, social care and rail. This would mean that any divisions in the party over remain/leave arguments had to take a back seat. But Keir Starmer put forward the Labour policy on Brexit to the whole conference and a good discussion ensued.

Corbyn’s critics have been largely silenced since the general election and with the grassroots movement behind him across the nation, this is a Corbyn conference – let there be many more to come. The Blairite ‘Labour First’ and ‘Progress’ seem to sense a weakness in Corbyn’s position on Brexit. They organised a number of fringe meetings with Brexit as the subject.  In my view, they see Brexit as stick with which to still beat Corbyn. On one day this week, a demonstration in support of Remain took place in front of the Brighton Centre. It’s time to put forward a socialist alternative to that of the Blairite big business Remain and the Tory’s dreadful hard Brexit disaster.

This week has seen particularly great speeches by Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot, Ian Lavery, Mat Wrack, John MacDonnell and Angela Rayner. Our own Jean Butcher gave a great speech to the floor during the week. The Canterbury and Whitstable CLP delegate vote was solid with votes aimed at expanding the socialist nature of labour’s policies and making the party more democratic.

This has been a great conference. It’s been hard work, thought-provoking and inspiring.  A socialist Labour government is coming soon. It can’t come soon enough.