Labour Conference Blog 2017

PB Account Manager Natasha Silkin writes…

Natasha Silkin

Natasha Silkin

This September marked my first time attending Labour Party Conference and, during those two and a half days, I had a great time. The Conference was exactly how I imagined, brimming with excited activists discussing the big issues of the day and endless fringes on a whole variety of topics. I attended several topical fringes including those run by the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing. These had high profile and varied speakers followed by lively Q&A sessions where experts and Party members were able to raise key issues and receive meaningful answers from the panels. These were worthwhile discussions and I went away with much food for thought.

The rest of my conference experience was positive too. Attending endless receptions, meeting a variety of interesting Labour members and industry representatives, plus meeting several high profile Labour MPs was a great experience. It is not often you have such unrivalled access to the Labour cabinet, and I say that as both a Labour Party member and a lobbyist. To me, the conference was a welcoming forum for positive and thoughtful debate, and those few days renewed my passionate support for Labour’s vision laid out in their 2017 manifesto. I left feeling uplifted and excited about what’s to come for the Party, and the country moving forward.

However, as Jess Philips, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley, has eloquently written in a recent New Statesmen article, the perspective I got after leaving the conference was not all as positive. Whilst at conference you are busy from morning until evening, taking full advance of all the exciting events on offer, which means you have little time to keep an eye on the news. Whilst the fringes I attended were interesting and constructive events, I soon found out that other people’s Labour conference experiences was not quite so positive . With reports of anti-Semitism and bullying covered in the media, I was soon reminded of the darker fringes of the Labour Party where unacceptable bad behaviour has not been stamped out.

I think Conference is a brilliant experience allowing Labour activists, industry and other key stakeholders a forum to discuss exciting policy ideas and work together to build a better future. If the Party truly wants to do this, and ensure everyone enjoys conference as much as I did, then we as a collective need to take several steps forward to tackle the issues I was reminded of on that train home.

It is my sincerest hope that at Labour Conference 2018, the only people worried by Labour’s member’s beliefs are the Conservative Party – nervous only due to prospect of a victorious Labour Government – and not Labour’s own members worried about anti-Semitism and victim-blaming.