On Saturday 5th November The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) held a conference entitled Britain at a Crossroads: Finding the Progressive Path at the TUC building in London. The event opened with a keynote speech by Jeremy Corbyn MP. In a wide ranging speech the leader of the opposition spoke – with references to work, education, taxation, Europe and more – of Labour’s aim to invest in the future for ‘a society that cares for all and doesn’t just protect the privileged few’. Full text of the speech.
For the rest of the day the spotlight was on the problems facing the left and how we might challenge these. It feels a little unfair to single out speakers as everyone I heard spoke informatively with passion and sincerity. Inevitably though different participants will be left with different take home messages.
Given my own background in education I was particularly interested in and impressed by the talk by Malia Bouattia (president of the National Union of Students) who outlined the plans for the NUS’s national day of action – United for Education – on the Saturday 19 November 2016. The aim is to ’represent a rallying call for free, accessible and quality further and higher education across the UK, and to demand an end to the marketisation of university and college education’.
After attending the session concerned with Changing the Debate on Migration and I could only agree with Saira Grant that the five principles for rethinking immigration, based on evidence, rather than right wing ideologically promoted prejudice, put forward by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) were both sensible and absolutely vital for a fairer Britain for all.
There were other plenaries and panel discussions focusing on crucially important concerns such as A Brexit that Works for Everyday People: globalisation, trade and negotiations; Fighting the 1% and Promoting Working Class Voices; Fighting for Public Services: taking stock and changing the narrative; Rents and Ladders: the housing crisis, regulation and alternatives . . . and more.
In each of these, alongside talk about the crisis our society is currently in, there were also narratives based on hope and opportunity and on what can be achieved through local and national strategy and through unity. #classconf16 was trending between 2 and 4 on twitter throughout the day.
The final session of the day was entitled All Hands on Deck: Building a Hopeful and Progressive Future for Britain. Amongst other important points and suggestions there was Francesca Martinez’s (comedian, actor, writer) reminder of the need for, and value of, ‘kinder, fairer leaders’ and the necessity of remembering as Owen Jones (journalist) said that history always judges our actions. His comment summed up, I think, our shared responsibility in what happens next: ‘We will all be asked what we did and didn’t do’.
Gayle Letherby, Truro and Falmouth Labour Party
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