Tomorrow I will be on my way to Brighton to play my part in the Labour Party National Conference. Some party conferences just look like an expensive marketing campaign. But for the Labour Party, which believes in democracy and involves its members in all its decisions, Conference is very important because we need to be able to decide our policies.
Having genuine discussion and debate, listening to other people’s views, hearing new ideas and sometimes realising that you were mistaken about something, all seem difficult for some people to understand when it comes to politics. Television interviewers and newspaper reporters often seem to think that every Labour MP and Councillor will know every single Labour Party policy before we have even decided them. The fact is, you can’t have democracy unless people are prepared to discuss their views and then come to a collective decision – that’s what the Conference is for. People join the Labour Party because they believe in changing the society we live in for the better, and they know that we can only achieve those changes if we all work together. If all we were interested in was maintaining the status quo, we could have slick meaningless conferences like the Tories.
Of course one of the things we will need to discuss is Brexit. I have written a lot about Brexit in my columns recently (if you want to read my previous columns they are available at http://sandyofipswich.co.uk) and so I will just briefly summarise the main points: Britain mustn’t leave without a deal. The result of the 2016 referendum can’t just be overturned without going back to the people. There should be a second referendum to enable the people to decide. Before we have that second referendum there needs to be a “ready-to-go” deal that people can vote on so that they know that if the majority vote Leave again we will actually leave without any more fuss.
Some commentators are saying that Labour’s position is too complicated for voters to understand – I think that is an insult to the intelligence of the British people. Above all, Labour’s position has the merit of trying to bring the country together. Political parties that only listen to Leave voters or only listen to Remain voters are dividing our country and would leave at least half our residents believing that the result was illegitimate.
But there are so many other important issues we need to decide in Brighton. The environment and climate emergency can no longer be put on anyone’s back-burner. I am reminded of David Bowie’s song “5 years” – I believe that if we are not already on the right course in five years’ time it will be too late. I will be speaking at various events on how to reduce our waste, how to make the environment central to all our actions, how to keep plastics out of our oceans, and how to ensure we grow more trees.
We need to be clear how we will make sure that very rich people can’t dodge paying their fair share of tax, how to prevent our vital national infrastructure being bought by foreign government organisations, and how we prevent hedge funds and other dodgy investors making millions by betting against the British economy. The word “traitor” is bandied about frequently on the internet when talking about Brexit, but the real traitors to our country are the ones planning to make huge personal financial profits out of the economic misery that a no-Deal Brexit would cause to the rest of us.
We will unveil plans to end the privatisation of the NHS, funding our GP surgeries, hospitals and mental health services properly, and making sure that people suffering from cancers and other life-threatening conditions get the early diagnosis they need if they are going to recover.
We need to identify how Labour’s National Education Service will make sure that ALL our children and young people get the support they need, from their first attendance at a Children’s Centre to their achievement of a degree or technical qualification.
And we need to show how Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution will invest in our country, building the renewable energy and sustainable transport and houses and new greener factories that will make our country a power-house of industry once more.
I’m looking forward to our conference. New and exciting ideas will be aired, and important decisions will be taken. I look forward to telling you about them next week.