Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Make conference mean something

Labour conference should be for all our members – and show the public we are in touch with their concerns, say Michael Cashman and Gloria De Piero

With so much meaningful policy to discuss – on Brexit, the Tory-DUP deal and its impact on all our communities, falling social mobility, and increasing division in our society – it is vitally important that our members have a bigger say in what Labour conference discusses. 

Our party has seen a huge influx of new and returning members in the last few years. A huge number of people, inside and outside the Labour party, are energised by politics in a way we have not seen in some time and we should use the opportunity conference provides, with the media spotlight it puts on our party, to show we are in touch with the concerns of the country and ready and waiting to form the next government.

Labour, united in our desire to see the back ofheresa May and her divisive, nasty politics managed to make real progress in June. Of course, there is more still to do to win back the trust of voters in some communities who have turned their back on us, so that we can win a majority and put our Labour values into action, but we can be proud of the campaign we all took part in.

Our larger membership has given us the ability to spread our message even further and it is right that all members should feel they are able to contribute to the policymaking process. Labour conference, once a dry and stuffy affair, has been rejuvenated too. We are re-standing for the Conference Arrangements Committee – so that we can build on the work we have already done to give members, new and old, a strong voice at conference and ensure that all levels of the party are engaging with members to shape our Labour conference programme. 

However we need a conference that is engaging and open to the public as well. The CAC should ensure conference is in touch both with our membership, inside and outside the conference hall, and relevant to the public with all our major national and regional politicians from across the party represented over the week.

Labour is a broad church – and as the most important decision-making body in our party, annual conference should be accessible to all members and reflect not only the broad range of opinion within our own party, but also the views of the people we seek to serve. 

It is a vital forum for making sure all of our members, and the communities we represent, have a say in showing the country we are fit for purpose and ready to govern. 

It is now time to take the enthusiasm and energy of our general election campaign and bring it to the conference floor and fringe meetings, giving our ordinary members up and down the country a bigger voice and more of a say in what conference discusses and how it is timetabled.

We need to harness the experiences of members too, so that people can learn from each other, and spread their success as we face an uncertain future, with another general election expected at any time.

Conference provides a unique opportunity for the Labour family to come together, to debate, to enthuse, and to reach out to the British public. With the deadline for ballots for the Conference Arrangements Committee closing on 8 September, we hope you will support the nominations we have received from up and down the country and re-elect us to the CAC so that we can give members a stronger voice and rejuvenate our practices, as we work together to get Labour into power. 


Michael Cashman is a member of the House of Lords and Gloria De Piero is member of parliament for Ashfield

Voting closes in the Conference Arrangements Committee election at 12 noon on Friday 8 September 2017

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Gloria De Piero MP

is member of parliament for Ashfield

Michael Cashman MEP

is the Labour MEP for the West Midlands, Co-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Inter-Group and a member of the National Executive Committee. He is a founder member and a former chair of Stonewall.

1 comment

  • I have my doubts about the appropriateness of parliamentarians giving voice to the membership. Do parliamentarians not have plenty of alternative opportunities to provide this lead? Although with some of the baying animal noises from some of these in parliament you could be forgiven for not realising (e.g aggressive animal faces and shouting from one women Labour MP this last week in response to a question to the PM – a so – called ‘moderate’ often seen crying about abuse).

    Conference should be for members, by members and maybe those who have played such a poor hand over the last few years should opt to step back to match the level of their absence in good leadership on a whole range of matters.

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