Labour Party conference has voted unanimously to pass the composite motion on the NHS based in part on the model motion promoted by this campaign. That is an excellent result – but just the beginning of the struggle.
Since the motion was passed by more than two thirds, Labour Party rules mean its contents should become part of the next General Election manifesto. If that happens, however, it will not be without a big fight.
Labour has democratically agreed left-wing policies on a whole range of issues – eg council housing, renationalisation of the railways – which are either ignored or repudiated by the leadership. This happens because, in general, the unions and the left do not campaign for the party’s policies to be implemented.
In this case, Labour Party officials tried various tactics to prevent the NHS text from making it onto conference floor. They were stopped by the determination of delegates, particularly those whose CLPs had submitted NHS motions, so switched to a strategy of avoiding a floor fight which would make them look bad. That is good. But it is also an indication that winning the vote is just another step in pushing Labour to take up these policies. The slightly more left-wing statements now coming from Labour spokespeople on the NHS should encourage us to push harder.
Alongside struggles against cuts and privatisation by health workers and local NHS campaigns, there needs to be a trade union and labour movement campaign to bring massive pressure to bear on Labour, to demand it fights for and implements its new policy. The NHS Liaison Network will seek to make that happen.
Pat Smith, the Liaison Network supporter and conference delegate whose speech moving the NHS motion got a standing ovation, said: “Passing this policy shows that campaigning in the Labour Party can work. But it is only the first step. Starting immediately, we need a campaign by trade unionists and party members to insist Labour puts its paper policy into practice.”