The Promise

Here is a copy of the Conference report I wrote for The Citizen:

A year after electing Ed Miliband as its Leader, the Labour Party gathered in Liverpool last week to consider the kind of Britain we want to live in.

On Sunday we put our Party rules and structures on a firm footing to include our all supporters. The ‘Refounding Labour’ changes will allow us to build a strong network of all supporters. We will repair, restore and renew the Labour Party and reconnect with people as their party.

In the evening there was an opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the South West. Ed Miliband spoke about the importance of the South West and the need for Labour to challenge seats in every election.

Early on Monday morning I went to a meeting on ‘Giving young people a stake in society’ sponsored by Action for Children.  We were joined by local young people to discuss how they can get involved and feel like they matter. Andy Burnham, Shadow Education Secretary, was there to listen and speak about some of the great ideas that came out of the meeting.

Back in the Conference Hall, Ed Balls gave a successful breakdown of the current economic situation and his challenge of 5 steps the Tory-led Government could take today. They could repeat the bank bonus tax, invest in long-term projects, reverse the VAT rise, cut VAT to 5% on home improvements, and introduce a national insurance break for small firms creating jobs. That would help struggling families and businesses. Those are Labour’s priorities, not cutting income tax for those earning more than £3000 a week.

The highlight of Tuesday was the Leader’s speech. In a packed hall Ed Miliband give a warm and funny introduction. He then got down to the serious business of fulfilling the promise of Britain. We were not perfect in Government.  We had a lot to be proud of though, and we did more good than harm. Now we want to make a new bargain.  Everyone will be asked to play their part, and our side of the bargain is to reward effort and responsibility by fulfilling the promise of Britain.

On Wednesday we discussed the proposed changes to voter registration which could leave millions without the right to vote. Each person will have to register individually. There will no longer be a duty to register. This will mean millions could find themselves unable to vote especially young people and people who move around a lot.

I managed to rush out of the Hall to go to a fringe meeting with one of the heroes of Conference, Tom Watson MP, the phone hackers’ nightmare. He was very positive about using different ways of communicating. Information should be shared and government opened up.  He said everything from tweeting in meetings to setting up an email group for your street should be considered.

In the Health debate John Healey exposed David Cameron for breaking his pre-election promises on the health service. This proves that you can’t trust the Tories with our NHS.

Yvonne Sharples, a Headteacher from Speke spoke passionately about the challenges and successes of turning around her failing school. This success is now threatened by Tory-led Government policies. Andy Burnham concluded the debate with a call for an education system that prepares all young people for the modern world.

There was a touching speech by Eskil Pederson President of Norway’s AUF (Worker’s Youth League) where a gunman shot 60 young people because they were members of the Labour Party. The commitment of the Norwegian people to democratic values was truly moving.

As part of opening up the Party and being more democratic Ed’s Leaders Q and A was a first for any political party. 2000 members of the public asked Ed whatever they wanted. ‘Make them difficult’ he said. He answered direct questions on everything from his brother David to Trident.  I think we will do that again.

The last debate on Thursday was on stronger communities. It allowed me to raise the County Council’s closure of libraries and the legal challenge to that, with a panel including Caroline Flint.

Then Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn closed Conference. We set off back to our constituencies to work in our communities fighting the coalition government.

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