By Maria Exall
The launch conference of the Labour Representation Committee was held on Saturday 3 July. Over 300 delegates packed out the TUC Congress Centre to discuss key policy issues and debate the future of the Labour Party.
John McDonnell MP welcomed everyone to the conference and called for comradely solidarity in debate and in the plans for organising for socialism in the Labour Party. There was a spirit of unity, with many of the delegates being aware that this conference represented the most serious attempt in the last decade to rally the forces of the left of the Labour Party.
The principle of labour representation was the focus of debates on national, international and equality issues. Speaker after speaker argued for a Party that would truly represent working-class people and their interests against the current Blairite consensus.
Billy Hayes, the General Secretary of the CWU, made the point that despite the setbacks of the expulsion of the RMT and the disaffiliation of the FBU most trade unionists wished to retain the link. But they wanted something from that link.
In the international section there was a guest speaker from France, Henri Emmanuelli from the French Socialist Party. A young girl from Iraq, a survivor of the bombing, spoke briefly and others with her told of the need for support for those suffering from lack of medical and social help in that country. Other speakers at the conference included Alice Mahon MP, NUS General Secretary Jeremy Dear, Tribune editor Mark Seddon, Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft, Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
But the most lively and important section of the conference was the organising session. It was agreed it was important for the LRC to have a union focus. Despite the fact that the "Big Four" trade unions are keeping their distance from the LRC for the moment, there are grassroots activists in these unions, as well as other unions who are committed to the development of the LRC.
There were both regional and trade union caucuses at the conference. Delegates talked of the need to organise to get the left voice heard in Constituency Labour Parties, in the Policy Forums and at Labour Party Conference. Several speakers talked about the need to change the leadership of the Party if we wanted to change the policies.
A Steering Committee and Officers was appointed to take the LRC forward. The LRC is focused on organising Labour Party members but allows a category of associate membership for those organisations not affiliated to the Party (both the FBU and the RMT supported the LRC conference) and also non-Party individuals who may wish to participate as long as they are not members of another political party.
There was much debate about the many Labour party members who had left over the war in Iraq, or foundation hospitals or top up fees and the need to work with them, and indeed give them a reason to rejoin. The LRC is now a membership organisation and all supporting individuals, trade union branches, CLPs and other organisations are encouraged to formally join.
Application form for membership can be obtained by writing to the Labour Representation Committee, c/o G10 Norman Shaw South, House of Commons, London SW1A 2JF or calling 020 7219 1626.
Initial demands of the LRC
End the illegal occupation of Iraq
Gender, racial and sexual equality
Repeal of the anti-trade union laws
Opposition to privatisation
Restoration of the earnings link and a significant increase in the basic state pension
Abolition of student fees and restoration of the maintenance grant
Ending selection in education
Restoration of the role of council housing
Opposition to corporate globalisation
Public ownership of railways
Defence of rights of asylum seekers
Restoration of Labour Party democracy
Redistribution of wealth
A radical Third Term for Labour