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Labour South East Regional Conference 2021 Report
This weekend, Cherise and I went to Reading University to take part in the 2021 South East Regional Conference as delegates for Bracknell CLP. We were joined by a number of delegates, representing CLPs, unions, and affiliates from across the region, in the first such event since 2018 in Southampton. The conference began with a recorded welcome from Keir Starmer, who emphasised that the route to Downing Street and electoral success goes through the South East. This is especially true given that, in the latest Boundary Review, the region will grow from 84 to 91 constituencies, to reflect the increase in population.
Following a welcome to Reading from the leader of the Labour controlled council, Cllr Jason Brock, as well as a speech from Anneliese Dodds, Chair of the Party, the first of a series of panels and fringe events over the weekend focussed on beating the Conservatives in the South East. The conference hall drew much inspiration from the experience of panellist Cllr Becky Cooper, the Leader of the Labour group on Worthing Borough Council. In five years, Labour has gone from having no representation in the borough, to cutting the Conservative majority to one. With a by-election on 2ndDecember, Cllr Cooper could become the first Labour leader of Worthing Council in its history.
Other sessions during conference included tips for digital campaigning, as well as a speech from the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Luke Pollard MP, on representing rural and coastal areas. Cherise and I chose to attend fringe meetings on becoming a councillor and planning a campaign, no doubt inspired after hitting the pavements in support of Paul Bidwell’s by-election campaign in Old Bracknell, to be held on 9th December.
There were two main responsibilities to acting as Bracknell’s delegates at the Regional Conference. We voted to elect members to the Regional Executive Committee. This group meets quarterly to support the regional Labour Party, working with local representatives to campaign and secure the election of Labour members at all elections. Details of which members were elected can be found on the Labour South East website here.
Conference also provided an opportunity to debate a number of motions that members want to see become Labour Party policy. The motion debates were my favourite part of the weekend, as they allowed delegates to take the floor and speak passionately about causes close to our hearts. UNISON successfully called for delegates to support Care after Covid: A UNISON vision for social care, as a priority for the next Labour government should be to fix our broken social care system ravaged by a decade of Conservative austerity. Other successful motions included calls for a green and equitable transport policy for the UK, following the example of Nottinghamshire Police in classifying misogyny as a hate crime, and developing a Labour approach to tackling food insecurity. These conference motions will now go into the National Policy Forum, the Labour Party’s open and democratic policymaking process.
Cherise and I both thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of Regional Conference, and we would like to thank everyone who was involved in making the weekend a success, from the hosts at Reading University, to the volunteers and training session leaders. Our next priority will be to take the things we learned from conference and help get Paul elected in Old Bracknell on 9th December!
Ryan Frost & Cherise Welch
20/21st November 2021