The campaign for John McDonnell MP to stand for the Labour Party leadership got a ringing endorsement last Saturday at the Labour Representation Committee conference in London.
The organisation of Labour Party left wingers saw 450 delegates unanimously back McDonnell’s campaign. McDonnell wants to stand in a leadership election to stop a “coronation” of chancellor Gordon Brown.
John McDonnell said, “Members and supporters want to be free to talk about socialism again.
“We must take our campaign to every part of the country and every part of the movement to prove that another politics is possible - a politics which is democratic, inclusive and socialist.”
A number of delegates left the conference to attend the anti-war protest that afternoon. A number of speakers condemned Israel’s attack on Lebanon and Gaza.
Tony Benn described the Israeli assault as preparation for an attack on Iran.
Michael Meacher MP said, “It is clear Britain has colluded with George Bush’s policy of allowing Israel to have a free hand to do what it wants.” He said Britain needed a “truly independent foreign policy”.
The conference passed a motion demanding an “immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories”.
Most of the day focused on the leadership of the Labour Party.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, warned that, “a Brown government would be worse than Tony Blair in many ways.
“All of the attacks on our members result from Brown’s policies. He’s damned in the eyes of our members and a change from Blair to Brown would be a disaster.”
Welcoming McDonnell’s candidature, Serwotka said, “We need a leader prepared to act on principle and I can’t think of anyone better than John McDonnell.”
He also welcomed the fact that McDonnell was speaking at the Organising for Fighting Unions conference on 11 November and encouraged all at the meeting to attend.
FBU firefighters’ leader Matt Wrack said, “If John McDonnell had been leader of the Labour Party, the FBU would not have disaffiliated from the Labour Party.”
Bob Crow, the RMT rail workers’ union general secretary, said, “People should stick our flag to the mast and support John McDonnell.”
While pledging the practical support of the RMT executive for the campaign, he reminded delegates that “we have no vote” because the RMT was expelled from the Labour Party.
A number of delegates argued for the campaign to reach out to the broader movement.
Though the union leaders who spoke at the conference were all from non-Labour affiliated unions, John McDonnell reassured the conference that they could get the necessary backers for him to stand.
He argued, “They said the same when Tony Benn stood in 1981, but the momentum grew and grew - and that’s what we expect from our campaign.”
Mike Woods MP argued the campaign for McDonnell had to reach out to the grassroots across the country, saying that they needed to mobilise enough people to bounce the parliamentary Labour Party into supporting McDonnell.