About 180 people – Labour Party members, trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners, academics, a few student activists and others – attended the Left Platform conference organised by socialist Labour MP John McDonnell (on 7 February, in London).
The aim of the event was to develop a basic left-wing platform of demands we can pressure the Labour Party to adopt. Very positively, it was sponsored by pretty much all the organisations of the Labour left and by forty Labour MPs and parliamentary candidates, though a smaller number were actually in attendance on the day. Julie Ward, newly elected Labour Member of the European Parliament from the North West, was also present and spoke. So did Neil Findlay, who won over a third of the vote in the election for leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
There were sessions on “alternative to austerity”, on fighting cuts and privatisation, and on fighting for a decent income for all.
Bringing together such a range of well-connected activists at relatively short notice was impressive and useful in itself. It was a very useful day for “networking” and we got a lot of new support and new contacts for the SCLV. No doubt many other fruitful connections were made.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time on the agenda for making or discussing practical proposals – even on the level of formulating the demands, let alone working out a plan to fight for them. If the many long speeches about the terrible consequences of “austerity” had been cut back a bit, some time could have been put aside for proposals.
There are various initiatives to put pro-working class demands on Labour – for instance the Labour Campaign for Free Education and the Labour NHS lobby blog. The Left Platform conference could have been an opportunity to spread their good practice, offer constructive criticism and develop new initiatives.
John McDonnell proposed a recall conference shortly after the election. We would argue for that conference to be much more practically focused.
The other note of criticism we would raise is that the central issues of immigration and migrants’ rights were not much discussed, with the exception of a contribution from Julie Ward MEP.
SCLV supporters will continue to build our socialist campaign while also doing everything we can to promote initiatives emerging from the Left Platform event.