Grim times at Party Conference


There are fewer less pleasant places than a Party Conference when you are on the losing side. I still have nightmares about the 1982 Regional Conference in Cleethorpes. Lincolnshire. I had just been selected as the Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham East, and Tony Benn was trying to block my endorsement; in his view I was too right wing and also had beaten a pal of his to the seat. The resort itself may well have improved since the early 80s but the bed and breakfast hotel at the time was grim (they did not seem to supply towels and I remember having to ask for one). The only other resident was an ultra-left delegate from the Bolsover constituency whose MP was the retro-Marxist Denis Skinner. I had defeated Skinner’s brother in the Nottingham selection. To enter the Conference Hall I was obliged to walk through a phalanx of sellers of indistinguishable papers and broadsheets with titles like Militant, Socialist Organiser and Class Struggle. If anyone recognised me I was a target for abuse.

This year’s Conference at Liverpool will similarly be an unremittingly dismal experience for those who hold traditional mainstream Labour Party views. They have my utmost sympathy. The dominant theme, unless the laws of gravity are miraculously suspended, will be the triumphalism of the Corbyn supporters: the mass sustained ovations for Jeremy inside the Conference Hall and the veiled threats to dissenting MPs outside.

In some ways the worst moment will to be that, in one of his major speeches, Jeremy Corbyn, will make an appeal for unity and demand support from all his opponents.   This will come from an unremitting factional fighter whose office, in the run-up to Conference, negligently released a half-baked list of 13,14 or MPs who it claimed were undermining the leader (the numbers reported varied and it may be that there were three lists or they simply could not count). The list included his Deputy Tom Watson.

This all recalls a recent an occasion when I was escorting two of my grandchildren to their London primary school. As is their habit they started rowing and pushing each other about nothing and I told them to stop bickering. My six-year-old granddaughter told me that she didn’t know what was meant by the word. I explained that bickering was something that destroyed peace and harmony. She immediately replied that ‘if you wanted peace and harmony, you wouldn’t grumble about us’. Perhaps Mr. Corbyn could learn something from her.

3 thoughts on “Grim times at Party Conference

  1. If you were a mainstream Labour supporter in the 1980s, as I was, your views are probably pretty close to Corbyn’s right now, and a long way from the so called centrists in the PLP. Corbyn’s views are not that radical. It makes me think that even the SWP and other daft left groups must have drifted right if they now support him. Most of the rest of us Corbyn-supporting Labour members are pretty mainstream in our views. It’s the failure of his opponents that brings us here not the ascendancy of Corbyn.


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