Saturday was another busy day for Jeremy Corbyn and his ever-growing supporters. First, Corbyn addressed a massive rally of thousands in Hastings, and then he rushed back to London to give hope and inspiration to a hundred thousand strong anti-austerity protest that had packed the streets.
I travelled down to the anti-austerity protest from Leicester on a similarly packed coach that was organised by the Nottingham branch of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union. This was because coaches for the Peoples Assembly protest had not been organised by any of our city’s unions — this is in spite of determined lobbying efforts by union members.
Admittedly the protest was called with just three weeks’ notice; but surely Leicester’s unions could have acted quicker in organising transport for those without cars? Certainly, in the future, the trade union movement will need to be collectively prepared to book coaches as soon as any huge protest to oppose Tory austerity is called, especially when it has the backing of the Labour Party.
Elsewhere the inability of the labour movement to fully swing behind Corbyn’s fighting leadership can also been seen by the Labour Party’s unwillingness to send local delegates to their party’s conference. So although the majority of the Labour Party’s membership supports Corbyn, a large proportion of their members who are ensconced in local leadership positions are unfortunately still not supportive of Corbyn’s socialist program for change.
The popular Labour blog Skwawkbox drew attention to some these conference problems in an article titled “How Blairites rigging 2017 conference delegates – are they doing it to YOUR CLP?” (February 1, 2017), as did an article in today’s Independent: “Labour’s right wing draws up new plan to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.”
Local Labour parties are arranged as ‘Constituency Labour Parties’ (CLPs), but tragically it seems that Blairites within those CLPs are encouraging newer inexperienced Labour Party members to settle for sending just one delegate to their Party’s conference. New Labour arguments put forward to defend such an ill-informed decision include (1) that sending more delegates does not result in more influence in votes, and (2) that the money saved by sending just a single delegate would be better spent on campaigning during a future General Election held later this year.
So far Jonathan Ashworth’s CLP (Leicester South), whose membership have been solidly behind Corbyn’s leadership of their party, has chosen to send just one single delegate to conference. Keith Vaz’s CLP (Leicester East) is apparently dysfunctional in that Vaz’s CLP does not even hold meetings (and so if they do send any, they are not democratically decided). And I shall await with baited breathe as to how many delegates Liz Kendall’s CLP sends to conference, although as their CLP does meet I assume they will be sending at least one but hopefully five or so.
Sending delegates to conferences is not of course the be all and end all of local politics, but it is critical that CLP’s send as many pro-Corbyn delegates to conference as possible if democracy is ever to be restored to their party’s much eroded decision-making bodies.