Having resolutely snoozed my alarm, I missed all the morning events on Monday. Strolling down to the hall for the generous ten o’clock start the conference arrangements committee (CAC) had allowed us, I was ready for the first properly controversial day of conference.
With a speech from the CAC, we found out that, to rectify (some of) the problems from yesterday, the CLP’s written submissions on referring back National Policy Forum report sections were detailed in the CAC report, allowing clarity when voting.
We then had another series of references back on the CAC report (arguing about how conference would be arranged). One particularly important part of this was when we discussed whether the NEC Brexit statement should be held before or after the composited motions from delegates, as one would curtail the other if passed. Again, the CAC report passed, so these references back were ignored.
After the report, I nipped across to a fringe event on how housing can be built to encourage community. I’m currently doing some research on this, so hearing contributions from developers, housing associations and the shadow housing secretary was fascinating. Plenty of people were able to ask questions or chat with them afterwards, allowing campaigners to put their policy forward.
Heading back to the hall, I snuck into John McDonnell’s speech, readying myself for the votes at the end of the first session. I came back both relaxed and informed. The unique combination of events and debate at conference really helps to energise our politics. McDonnell promised to end in-work poverty in the first term of a Labour government, a pledge that reminded me of why I was in the party.
After a lengthy round of applause, we did some more referencing back – this time on the National Policy Forum report. In a dramatic change from yesterday, all of these passed quickly with hand votes. With the motions that followed also passing quickly and almost unanimously, the process was infinitely better than yesterday. This honestly raised my mood significantly: will today go smoothly? Oh, no, we’ve got Brexit this afternoon.
At lunch, I quickly popped to another fringe event: an interfaith discussion of faith in international development, which helped me to understand the discussion of international aid in the afternoon. Again, the fringe had helped me to understand the proceedings in the hall.
With a passionate yet measured speech, Emily Thornberry opened the international debate. Over lunch, the ‘Stop Brexit’ guy and his comrades had finally convinced me to take a ‘Labour can stop Brexit’ placard, and Thornberry’s call for remaining in the EU was greeted with a large number of other placards. Where last night’s debate was filled with boredom, the hall was now full and excited.
It became clear during the debate that a lot of delegates didn’t actually know what they were voting on. People complaining about the idea of a second referendum were advocating voting for composite 14, which supported a second referendum. They called for unity while arguing that different comrades should campaign for different results in the referendum.
But the biggest controversy on Brexit, which won’t be mentioned elsewhere, was our placards. People were very angry that we had them, but I think largely because they were jealous that they didn’t have their own emblazoned with the word ‘ambiguity’ in capital letters.
Finally, we got round to voting. On the fateful composite motion 13, which would have made us an unambiguously Remain party, there was confusion as to whether it had passed or not. The chair explained that she had believed that it was carried, but had been told by the general secretary that it had fallen. This prompted calls for a card vote. The chair then backtracked, denying that it had been ambiguous. This caused a lot of anger, including from me. For the second night of conference in a row, I ran to a local hostelry in search of escape, before realising that I had this diary to write. Goodnight, reader.