Labour Party Conference: Wikis

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The Labour Party Conference, or annual national conference of the Labour Party, is formally the supreme decision-making body of the Party.

Contents

Conference decisions

In the United Kingdom, each major political party holds an annual party conference during the party conference season. In the Labour Party, Conference is the supreme body, although the party leadership has made clear, particularly in recent years, that it will ignore the conference's decisions where it does not agree; constitutionally, a British government must be free to make decisions on behalf of the whole population and cannot be bound by any private body.

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Delegates

Delegates to the conference are elected by Constituency Labour Parties, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies. Currently, affiliated trade unions hold 50% of the votes at the conference - down from 80% in the era before Tony Blair, but still considerable. Some 40% of the votes are wielded by the three largest trade unions (Unite, GMB, UNISON).

Resolutions

Resolutions for debate are put forward by CLPs and unions before the conference begins. In recent years, party members have had less say in what is debated at the annual conference, as the party leadership has tried to move policy-making increasingly into the new National Policy Forums, which meet in private.

Role of the NEC

The National Executive Committee leads the conference (although the details of the conference, including what is debated is managed by the Conference Arrangements Committee) and if it does not agree with a resolution, the committee may put pressure on the backers to withdraw or remit it. Remittance means that the resolution's backers agree to "send back" the resolution to the National Executive so that it can consider the matter in more detail; this is viewed by some as a mere delaying tactic. The resolutions voted upon are normally composites, meaning that they have been compiled by combining several resolutions put forward by different bodies into a single wording agreed beforehand.

Comparisons

Many critics argue that the Labour Party Conference has become less democratic in recent years and more like a party rally; some would compare it disparagingly with the American party conventions, which are perceived in the UK in those terms. Others would say that, because divisions in a party are unpopular electorally, it has been to the party's advantage to move disputes behind closed doors; they would also argue that the Labour Conference is more democratic than that of the rival Conservative Party, which political scientists have traditionally perceived as a more top-down or hierarchical party than Labour.

Since 1997

1998 Blackpool

BBC News Coverage

1999 Bournemouth

BBC News Coverage

2000 Brighton

The international guest speaker was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa.

BBC News Coverage

2001 Brighton

The international guest speaker was Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor of Germany.

BBC News Coverage

2002 Blackpool

The international guest speaker was Bill Clinton, former president of the United States of America

BBC News Coverage

2003 Bournemouth

The international guest speaker to address conference was Hamid Karzai, the first President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

BBC News Coverage

2004 Brighton

The 2004 party conference was held in Brighton during the final week of September. Conference rejected a call for withdrawal from Iraq, but accepted a resolution calling for renationalization of the railways; the leadership declared that it would ignore this.

The conference received some international glamour when it was addressed by the Irish rock star Bono who called for more action to combat the spread of AIDS and the debt crippling African countries.

Conference closed with the singing of The Red Flag and Jerusalem.

BBC News Coverage

2005 Brighton

Over 600 people were held under the recent terrorism acts, including Walter Wolfgang an 82-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany who was arrested for heckling Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. None was subsequently charged.[1]

BBC News Coverage

2006 Manchester

In 2006 the conference was held in Manchester at the G-Mex and Manchester International Conference Centre from 24 to 28 September. It was the first time in 50 years the main Labour conference was not held at a seaside town and the first time since 1917 the Labour conference had been held in Manchester. This followed Labour's Spring 2004 conference which was held at the G-Mex for the first time. The conference was Blair's last as leader after he stated this would be the case just before the conference and at the conference itself. The start of the conference was marked with protests against the Iraq war.

Tony Blair, in his last speech to conference as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister, praised the work of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.[2]

The conference was addressed in a joint session by Labour's Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and the Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa on the subject of climate change. Bob Geldof and Monica Naggaga from Oxfam (Uganda) spoke together about the plight of Africa. The main international guest speaker was the former US President Bill Clinton. Another international visitor - but not a speaker to the conference - was Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel.

2007 Bournemouth

The 2007 conference was held in the Bournemouth International Centre from 23 to 27 September. The conference was the first with Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, and he laid out his plains for his premiership.

2008 Manchester

The 2008 conference was held between 20 and 24 September in Manchester at Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex). The opening day of conference was moved from Sunday to Saturday to allow people who work during the week to attend. The Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, delivered his keynote address on 23 September.

2009 Brighton

The 2009 conference was held in Brighton from 27 September to 1 October 2009.[3] It is noted for a particularly impassioned address from Peter Mandelson given on Monday 28 September in which he claimed that Labour was in "the fight of our lives" as the forthcoming general election approached.[4] Gordon Brown gave his keynote address to the conference on the afternoon of Tuesday 29 September, saying that Labour was "not done yet".[5] Shortly afterwards Britain's biggest selling newspaper, The Sun announced that it would withdraw its support for the Labour Party and gave its backing to the Conservatives.[6]

References

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