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Published:September 28th, 2009 21:02 EST
An Important Forum for Debating Resolutions: The Labour Party Conference

An Important Forum for Debating Resolutions: The Labour Party Conference

By Medyan Dairieh

In the United Kingdom, each major political party holds an annual party conference during the party conference season. The Labour Party has been holding its annual conference at the Brighton Centre between Sunday 27th September and Thursday 1st October 2009 and is the sixth time the Labour Party has returned to Brighton since 1997.

The Labour Party Conference is an important forum for debating resolutions which are voted on by delegates from Constituency Labour Parties, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies. However the party leadership has made clear in more recent years, that it will ignore the conference`s decisions where it does not agree.

Delegates to the conference are elected by Constituency Labour Parties, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies. Currently, affiliated trade unions hold 50% of the votes at the conference - down from 80% in the era before Tony Blair. Some 40% of the votes are exercised by the three largest trade unions (Unite, GMB, UNISON).

Resolutions for debate are put forward by CLPs and unions before the conference begins. Many critics argue that the Labour Party Conference has become less democratic in recent years and more like a party rally; this is due to the fact that in recent years party members have had less say in what is debated at the annual conference, as the party leadership has tried to move policy-making increasingly into the new National Policy Forums, which meet in private. The conference is led by the National Executive Committee and if it does not agree with a resolution, the committee may put pressure on the backers to withdraw or remit it, which means that backers agree to "send back" the resolution to the National Executive so that it can consider the matter in more detail. Some have argued that disputes have been moved behind closed doors in order in order to prevent showing publicly major divisions in the party.

Sussex Police has been organizing "Operation Otter` the for the security of the conference, for which the preparations had lasted several months. Operation Otter is primarily a counter-terrorism operation based on the principle of an "Island Site`, a specially created secure area which incorporates the Brighton Centre, Grand Hotel and Hilton Metropole Hotel as well as the Russell Road NCP car park. Barriers, fencing and turnstiles have been used in the days before and during the conference.

Only people accredited by the police will gain access to the "Island site` , but they are still subject to personal and baggage searches and must display an appropriate pass at all times. The Vetting and Validation of approximately 13,000 people has been conducted by a dedicated team working closely with The Labour Party.

During the political conference, a number of pre-arranged and spontaneous marches and demonstrations expressing dissent have been allowed to take place. Over 1000 officers and police staff have been involved in the operation; Some officers have been openly bearing firearms: they have been stationed at points around conference and also on patrol in the city centre. Armed officers have also been used to ensure the safety of protected persons (such as the Prime Minister).

The major issue discussed by in the Labour party conference has been the financial crisis and how to get more jobs in the UK.

Gordon Brown has been facing questions over the war in Afghanistan at this month`s Labour party conference, with grassroots activists circulating a motion demanding the troops to be withdrawn. The "contemporary issues motion", which lets grassroots members trigger debates at conference, concludes that "a majority of the public believe the war is unwinnable" and suggests Britain`s involvement has increased the threat of terrorist attack. Ministerial aide Eric Joyce, resigned last week in protest at the handling of the war. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is putting forward a resolution calling for the British government to bring British troops home from Afghanistan. The motion for the troops withdrawal has also been supported by Labour CND and the Campaign Group of leftwing MPs. If this resolution passes, it will add significantly to the pressure on the British government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, especially as it moves into a general election campaign.

A series of Fringe meeting have been taking place as the same time as the Labour Party Conference. They have provided an extremely important forum for the political debates for delegates, since they have been discussing the most pressing issues of the moment with important speakers, from the Media and political institutions. Debates included the following themes:

"Where can the Labour Party and the left go after 12 years in power, and what are the challenges we face in building a progressive coalition in the future?`

"Why have British attitudes to benefits been historically hostile, and what can be done to make the public case for the welfare state?`

"Could Labour win?`

"Is this the last chance for a progressive coalition? Could there be a progressive coalition in the UK?

Where are the areas that progressives from different political parties could work together and what are the barriers to achieving that coalition?`

" Who are the new Conservatives?`

"After the crunch - how do we beat poverty?`

"Economy Question Time`

"Tackling Worklessness in an Ageing Society`



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