Labour Party Conference with a Whiff of Soviet Russia
Another year and the last bits of life are just about squeezed out of the Labour Party Conference. Once home to some vigorous debates in the hall, it has now dwindled into a piece of slick TV propaganda. Well almost...
Firslty the main speeches. Here's an extract from Gordon Brown's:
And the history of our movement tells us how we succeed in transforming our country: putting British values - fairness to all, responsibility from all - at the core of all we do, and reaching out to the country to build a progressive consensus around them...Our mission: new Labour renewed. Our values: fairness for all, responsibility from all.Our country: united as one moral community. A great British society. This we stand for. And this together we can and will achieve.
The new Labour bit aside, that is so vague and so obvious that no-one would disagree. same with Tony Blair's speech:
The age we live in is democratic not deferential. We believe in solidarity. We believe in social justice, in opportunity not for a privileged few but for all, whatever their start in life. We believe in tolerance and respect, in strong communities standing by and standing up for the weak, the sick, the helpless.
Oh and the rounds of applause followed, naturally.
Chris Pattern, former Tory chair, said he thought the Tories under him managed their conference with media professionalism. Diane Abbot, left-ish Labour MP, said she and other no longer attend because of lack of debate and claimed that if it wasn't filmed it wouldn't even be going anymore.
But the controlling nature of New Labour got worse than this. No debate on Iraq, a fairly big issue you might think. when Jack Straw tried to play up the wonders of Labour's foreign policy of intervention (how it would have saved many others if followed through around the world: like they didn't just jump because Bush said so) one of the few 'hecklers' left at the conference, Walter Wolfgang, an 82 Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and lifelong peace campaigner, shouted 'nonsense' and 'it's a lie'. Not the greatest crime you might think but then infamously a couple of big heavies came and dragged him out from behind (see above). Another man was thrown out for telling the bouncers to stop. Wolfgang was escorted out, searched, had his pass confiscated, and refused re-entry by the police. And the reason this could all be done: the Prevention of Terrorism Act. A sadly typical abuse of power not only by New Labour but the police (again, no surprise there). For Walter Wolfgang's account read this. This is very disturbing.
Naturally there were the obligatory apologies from Blair, Straw and that other professional liar , the ultra-Blairite John Reid. So, just a mistake then? Not control freakery?
Long time Labour MP Austin Mitchell has complained that his digital camera was removed from him and all photos of the conference queues deleted.
Channel 4 has now complained to the Labour party claiming a team from its main current affairs show was banned from the conference.
And of course not debate on Iraq. And an ignored defeat on health.
It just won't stop. The opponents people are hardly al-Qaeda. It's a hyper- authoritative streak that has long been at the heart of New Labour.
On a more annoying note I was a bit pissed off to see Tony Blair walking down the aisle to the punk classic, Sham 69: 'If the Kids Are United'. Is there no limit to what these people will steal?
To top off a sorry week arguably the greatest libertarian and radical the Labour Party has ever had, Tony Benn collapsed and hit his head and is said to be comfortable in hospital.
On a stupid note, Barrow got a mention by one vetran of Labour party conferences:
Motions are discussed in higgledy-piggledy bunches of three and four; no sooner has a bloke from the T&G angrily railed against what happened to the staff of Gate Gourmet and demanded the right to secondary picket, than the next speaker has snuffed out any drama by thanking the government for all the great things they've done for Barrow-in-Furness.
Ignore the opinion of 'the next speaker' by the way. The shipbuilding industry has hardly been rescued.
No proper discussion of climate change. The only very small consolation, if that, is that a government (and especially a leader) obsessed with legacy this government should be remebered for a horrific crime by their utter failure to act on what is doubtlessly the biggest threat to the world.
Conclusion: it's great to be at a Labour Party Conference so long as you agree with everything you are told. If you want to discuss the biggest issues facing the country and the world: shut up, be happy, or go elsewhere. Got that?