At a meeting of the CLPD at party conference, Labour’s left is organised—and deservedly optimisticby Stephanie Boland / September 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
It’s 18:28—two minutes before the event begins—and I’m already playing the part of hapless MSM. I’ve arrived for a Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLDP) meeting at the Queen’s Hotel, Brighton, and I’ve not got my £3 entry fee. “We have to cover the room somehow,” a member tells me, before I dash off to a cash point. I return at 6:36. Luckily, the event is so popular that they haven’t started yet.
The CLPD aren’t, to the lay person, one of the most prominent Labour groups—until you start following the procedures and rule changes that have the power to tilt the party machinery to one faction or another, at which point, they’re everywhere. Relatively small, with around 80 members, their affiliation with Momentum allows them to punch well above their weight.
This year, with a series of important, Momentum-backed rule changes on the agenda, their mid-conference meeting is buzzing. Compared to the main conference hotel, where the mood is bizarrely subdued—and journalists meet in the corridors, shaking their heads at each other, unsure where the story is—the tone here is bold and optimistic.
True, there are murmured cheers when Rhea Wolfson MP kicks off her speech by mentioning the recent resignation of Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale—her interim replacement, Alex Rowley, is “a fantastic comrade”—but the tone is largely positive. When the “right-wingers” (members on both sides of the party have a habit of referring to themselves as “centre left,” and designating their opponents the left or right-wing outliers) come up it is largely with the self-assured tone of a movement which assumes that, if it doesn’t already control the party in its totally, it is sure to do so soon.
For the CLPD, this is the realisation of a long-held dream. The party, Wolfson says, has been “wholesale transformed in the most positive way,” turning into a grassroots organisation that can change “not just the party, but society.” Cat Smith MP compares the mood to her first conference, where, she says, she felt shut out as a “young delegate, a long way from home, with opinions.”
“I was excluded,” she tells the meeting: “someone tried to push me out of the hall.” She welcomes the changes brought in this year which allow…