Over a hundred people – Labour Party activists, trade unionists, anti-cuts activists, disability campaigners and others – attended the second meeting of the Labour Left Platform convened by John McDonnell at NUT headquarters on the evening of 12 May.
In our report on the first LLP conference we criticised the lack of focused discussion and practical planning. Unfortunately the same thing happened this time. We understand the planned agenda discussing demands and pressure on a Labour government had to be scrapped; but surely a new one could have been put in place? Anyway, this is important for future meetings.
In addition to the general merit of getting people together for discussion and solidarity so soon after the defeat, there were a number of important things raised at the meeting:
1. Labour leadership challenge
McDonnell reported. It seems like it will be very difficult to get the 35 MPs’ nominations necessary for a left candidate to stand. Left Labour MPs Jeremy Corby and Kelvin Hopkins are going to investigate further. The name of Ian Lavery, former NUM President and MP for Wansbeck in the NE, was mentioned. The (correct) point was made from the floor that the left should put forward a candidate and campaign to get on the ballot paper, even though it will be difficult to do so, in order to shape the debate.
2. Coordinating parliamentary with extra-parliamentary struggle
There was a consensus that, given the Tories’ new majority, the focus has to be on extra-parliamentary struggle. Comrades reported on a number of ongoing campaigns, from actions by Disabled People Against the Cuts to the City & Islington College strike to the NCAFC student protest at the opening of Parliament. We raised the crucial questions of defending the NHS and of fighting new anti-union laws. The meeting also began to discuss the problem of mobilising the unions for a fight. The Left Platform will circulate information about struggles and attempt to give them a political dimension, including parliamentary support.
3. Local labour movement conferences
SCLV supporters reported on the plans for a local labour movement conference to discuss the way forward in Nottingham. It seems that a similar initiative has been made – and is actually further advanced – in Croydon, South London, where the “Croydon Assembly” will take pace on 6 June. There are also plans for a meeting in Chesterfield on 28 May. More details soon. We urge people to organise similar initiatives around the country.
4. Debates on Scotland and Europe
There was some debate on the issue of Scottish nationalism/independence and on the European Union and attitudes to an EU referendum. There are obviously major disagreements. It is extremely important that the left – trade union left, Labour left and broader left – debates these issues much more extensively and openly. The EU issue in particular is crucial.
The meeting also voted, with only one abstention, to oppose the suspension of Christine Shawcroft from the Labour Party national executive; and with a much larger number of abstentions (maybe 40 percent), to condemn the suspension of Lutfur Rahman as mayor of Tower Hamlets and demand his reinstatement.