Around 250 people gathered at the annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in London last Saturday. They heard from speakers including Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and union leaders Mark Serwotka, Matt Wrack and Joe Marino.
The meeting was a chance for the left inside the Labour Party to take stock of a year in which John McDonnell’s attempt to stand for the leadership was blocked by the failure of 45 MPs to nominate him.
This year also saw Labour’s conference reduced to little more than a rally with decision making powers removed from it.
The feeling among many LRC members was summarised by Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the firefighters’ FBU union, who called for joint work among socialists, both inside and outside the Labour party.
“It is unlikely that my union will reaffiliate to Labour in the near future,” he said.
“We have to be prepared to engage with people whether they are in the Labour Party or not – and that particularly applies to young people, many of whom see no difference between Labour and the other mainstream parties.”
Tony Benn pointed to the Stop the War Coalition, of which he is president, as an example of the success that the left can have when united.
The conference voted to open its membership to those outside of Labour – on condition that they are not members of parties that stand against Labour in elections.
Mark Serwotka, who is the general secretary of the civil service workers’ PCS union and not a member of the Labour Party, addressed the conference, saying that the left in Labour was weaker now than last year.
Serwotka also asked the conference to consider the case of Merseyside Labour MP Bob Wareing, a supporter of the LRC who has been deselected from his seat and now plans to stand against Labour.
He said he would support Bob Wareing if he were in Liverpool and urged others to do the same.
He went on to call for joint work between those inside and outside the Labour Party.