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Norwich North interim report on Conference 2017

"The conference was amazing. One of the best things I’ve ever been involved with. Such energy and such a powerful sense of unity and purpose" says Bridget Lely, one of three Norwich North CLP delegates at the Labour Party national conference last week, attending alongside delegates from Norwich South. Below is the interim report back from Norwich North, with an enlightening and informative run-through of what went on. 

In preparation for national conference, the Norwich Labour Party passed three motions with a view to influencing national Labour Party policy; Norwich North had a contemporary motion on Brexit/single market/customs union and an emergency motion on Trident/UN Treaty. Norwich South had a contemporary motion on Grenfell Towers. The delegates were not mandated to vote in any particular way outside of these motions.

The Norwich North delegates, Bridget Lely, Mark Randall and Allyssa MacIntyre, attended the conference sessions, union and affiliate events as well as fringe sessions.

The first order of conference is to set the agenda for the week in the priorities ballot. All contemporary motions received are grouped into themes, and Trade Unions and affiliated societies are permitted to vote for four themes and Constituency Labour Parties (CLP's) are also permitted to vote for four themes. This allows for up to eight contemporary motions to be tabled during conference.

On the understanding that the Unions were backing a debate on Grenfell that was sure to carry, and after discussion with delegates from Norwich South, all Norwich delegates voted for the following subjects in the priorities ballot: Brexit, NHS, Housing, Social Care. The Brexit vote achieved 72,660 votes (the top four were NHS 187,723, Housing 187,716, Social Care 145,613 and Rail 120,496), so unfortunately was not successful.

At the next conference session a statement was released by the NEC that clarified the position of the Labour Party on Brexit negotiations. (The statement will be included in our full report.) As this did not rule out, but failed to guarantee remaining in the single market and customs union, Norwich North delegates voted against ratifying this statement on the basis that it was not in keeping with the expressed wishes of the Norwich Labour Party contained within the Brexit motion. Sadly we were in the minority, so the NEC statement was passed.

Norwich North delegates also attended a number of fringe events relating to Brexit, as well as the policy briefing with Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner. 

Norwich North delegates supported Norwich South in their successful campaign with the Grenfell resolution and later attended Unite’s meeting on Grenfell. They voted in favour of all the composited motions.

The delegates voted to support a reference back by a delegate from Taunton Deane of a section of the National Policy Forum (NPF) Report, as this had failed to commit Labour to reverse social security cuts. This was successful and it was the first time that part of the NPF Report has been referred back. Further sections of the Report on health and education were also referred back during conference, with the health referral demanding greater clarity that Labour Policy is to renationalise the NHS and the education referral to ensure our policy is to bring academies under local authority control. Norwich North delegates voted to refer back on each occasion.

The delegates voted for the candidates Anna Dyer and Emine Ibrahim in the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) ballot. They both won the vote. The NCC manage disciplinary cases.

The Norwich North delegates voted in favour of the three NEC constitutional amendments, on the composition of the NEC, the nomination of leader and deputy leader and that on conduct prejudicial to the party. All these were carried.

The proposers of CLP constitutional amendments were asked to remit their amendments, on the understanding that these would be taken into account in the planned Corbyn Democracy Review. Most agreed, saying that they would be back next year if their issues were not dealt with. One amendment, on changing the title of ‘contemporary’ motions to allow a wider range of subjects to be addressed, was not remitted. The delegates voted in favour of this amendment, which was not carried.

Sadly the Norwich North emergency motion on Trident was rejected for debate. Delegate Mark Randall spoke from the rostrum in an attempt to challenge the decision to exclude the Norwich North emergency motion, but this was not successful. The emergency motions that were accepted dealt with Bombardier and assaults on emergency service workers. The delegates voted in favour of these motions, which were carried. 

This conference was organized differently from those of previous years, in that there were less set speeches and there was plenty of time for delegates to speak at the rostrum. This made for lively and varied discussions. New rules empower delegates to refer back any wording in the NPF report that they feel needs clarification or changing. This gives Labour Party members an even greater degree of influence over the policy decisions and direction of the Labour Party. 

Your team of delegates from Norwich North and South worked and fought hard for the motions of the Norwich Labour Party. Electing, mandating and sending a team of delegates is vital to ensure that all Norwich Labour Party members have a direct say in shaping the future of our Labour Party.

Norwich South was successful in getting the motion on Grenfell to the compositing stage and, due to spirited contributions from Norwich South delegates Emma Hampton, Geraldine Murray and George Deacon, key elements of the Norwich South motion were retained in the final resolution put to conference.

Norwich North delegates were unsuccessful with their motions, but took every opportunity available to fight for and get a hearing for the views of the membership on both motions.

The shared house worked well, with seven delegates staying there. The delegates would like to thank the Norwich Labour Party for its financial support and also to thank all members who contributed to the accommodation fund.

This conference was truly historic, inspiring and powerful. In the hall the energy and sense of purpose of the Labour Movement was palpable. A strong manifesto was built upon, and visionary and transformative policy was put forward. The Labour Party looks and feels unified, vibrant and unbeatable.

Delegates intend to report in more detail on particular aspects of the conference.

Delegates are more than happy to attend any ward branch meetings to speak and report on national conference.

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