Chris Wongsosaputro, ESEA for Labour Conference Delegate, 2023
This Labour Party conference was the first time I attended as a delegate, and the first time representing East and South East Asians for Labour.
For those new to Party conference, conference business for delegates runs from Sunday to Wednesday during Conference week. The role primarily involves voting for Labour Party Constitutional Amendments which have been proposed by the NEC (National Executive Committee), NEC representatives, as well as composite motions proposed by CLPs, Trade Unions and Socialist Societies. It is considered one of the key mechanisms to hear multiple voices in the Labour Party, and their views on key policies and procedures. These are usually debated and agreed via voting on motions.
Each debate begins with a plenary speech by relevant Shadow Ministers speaking on their briefs. For example, Bridget Phillipson spoke ahead of the Mission Plenary on ‘Breaking Down the Barriers to Opportunity’ in her role as the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Other formats include a panel discussion and a debate on different motions, such as to discuss the party's views on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
The proposers of each motion are then given 3 minutes to speak, whilst seconders are given 2 minutes to speak on behalf of motions. The session Chairs then call upon different delegates to comment on the motion for a further 2 minutes each. Once all discussions are completed, delegates vote to approve or reject motions.
Voting for constitutional amendments is done via a card vote to indicate if delegates agree. CLP (Constituency Labour Party) votes count for 50% and affiliates, including East and South East Asians for Labour, count for the remaining 50%.
In between this year's motion debates, there were also various speeches from Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner and Rachel Reeves setting out Labour’s visions. An international speaker, Oleksandr Korniyenko, the First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament), also spoke on the last day. There were also reports on Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and local government presented by representatives from each region.
NEC proposed constitutional amendments for this year covered the Party’s disciplinary processes, criteria for motions to be discussed during Conference, streamlining of the Executive Officer (EO) roles, as well as National Women’s Committee elections. Speakers were given the chance to speak in favour or against the motions, followed by NEC responses.
In the end, delegates passed all amendments, with only one slightly closer vote.
Delegates also voted on their top 12 issues to be discussed during Conference from a list of 49 topics. Ultimately, the topics selected ranged from the NHS and social care, to the New Deal for Working People.
The Conference ended with a closing speech by Shadow Paymaster, General Jonathan Ashworth, and singing of ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘Jerusalem’- the Labour Party's key anthems.
Although the delegate agenda was packed, I was also able to attend fringe events and receptions early in the morning or in the evening, as well as the excellent ESEA for Labour dinner.
This was a great Conference for setting the scene for what Labour would do in power.
I look forward to the next Conference when we'll hopefully be in Government!
Chris is the Treasurer for East and South East Asians for Labour, as well as the Socialist Societies. He is passionate about Labour Party politics and is seeking selection in Weston-Super-Mare.