By Pat Smith, delegate from Hull North CLP
We have succeeded in forcing a debate on rebuilding the NHS onto the agenda of Labour Party conference.
Despite the weather, up to 200 people took part in today’s lobby of the conference, organised by the NHS Liaison Network. A mix of Labour Party activists, trade unionists, students and NHS campaigners chanted slogans including “Cuts no, services yes – Labour rebuild the NHS” and “Seize the banks, reclaim their wealth – spend it on our National Health”. We also heard speeches from John McDonnell MP, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan, and a range of NHS workers and local campaigners. Perhaps most importantly, we leafleted and discussed with delegates as they went into the conference. (Even Andy Burnham stopped to speak to us!)
The lobby, and the campaign running up to it, seem to have had an effect. 15 of the 17 motions on the health service submitted by Constituency Labour Parties were versions of the model motion written by the Liaison Network and the Labour Representation Committee. And today, as the lobby was demanding, CLP delegates voted to make the health service their top priority for discussion.
However, the Labour leadership is well armed with bureaucratic procedures to avoid debate. Having failed to persuade the Conference Arrangements Committee to rule most of the NHS motions out of order, apparatchiks descended on the compositing meeting to try to get them gutted. But, faced with such a large number of CLPs and with delegates determined to get their text onto conference floor, they eventually had to give in, after more than two hours of intense argument.
The essential content of the Liaison Network/LRC motions will now go forward to the conference as a composited motion – the only one on the NHS – to be discussed on Wednesday morning. But there are still other tricks that can be tried, including an NEC statement over-ruling or disqualifying the motion. (Earlier today, when delegates voted clearly against the CAC’s ruling out of a democratic reform motion, the chair simply declared the ruling carried!)
Labour Party members and members of affiliated unions and societies need to use the next few days to bring the maximum possible pressure to bear on the party hierarchy, to ensure the motion is voted on – and passed.
Watch this space. For more information ring me on 07515 004 519