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Refusing to be silenced at Labour conference

This article is over 16 years, 3 months old
Our readers sent in some experiences and impressions after Labour’s conference
Issue 1971

Terrorism T-shirts

During the conference the Prevention of Terrorism Act was used against people wearing T-shirts with anti-Labour slogans.

One man had been stopped and searched under the act for wearing an “anti-Blair” T?shirt.

Another man was accosted by the police and forced to change a T-shirt which said “B-Liar”.

He was told that if he returned to the demonstration in support of Guantanamo detainee Omar Deghayes with the T-shirt on, he would be charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

We are descending into a situation where any word that goes against the government can be seen as something that contravenes the anti-terrorism laws.

Asim Qureshi

Walter Wolfgang

Back in 1999 I helped organise a meeting in Southall, west London, against the US led military intervention in the Balkans. Walter Wolfgang spoke from London CND.

Walter’s quiet, firmly expressed and principled opposition to that war drew a dividing line that today places him on the side of ordinary Iraqis against the occupation.

That meant he was on the receiving end of New Labour thugs whose top table masters cannot bear the voice of the majority being quietly echoed from the back of their conference hall.

Walter Wolfgang speaks for all of us and they know it. They have had to grovel and apologise to him because underpinning his determination and principle lies a mass movement.

As Wolfgang has pointed out, they are culpable of far greater crimes and they should tremble—their apologies to Walter are nothing to the price he and us can yet force them to pay.

Rob Ferguson

Housing success

Delegates at the Labour Party conference in Brighton last week voted almost unanimously for a motion that “calls on government to provide the ‘fourth option’ of direct investment to council housing as a matter of urgency”.

This is the second year that delegates have shown that they do not accept the Blair government’s line on selling off council housing.

Some 130 people packed into a Defend Council Housing (DCH) fringe meeting sponsored by the Unison, Amicus, T&G, GMB and Ucatt unions and the house of commons council housing group.

Speakers included MPs Austin Mitchell, Frank Dobson and Nick Brown, alongside senior trade union leaders.

Nick Brown said, “Demand for council housing is coming back. In Newcastle council waiting lists are growing, even while the total population is still going down. The reason is clear—rent levels in the private sector are a third higher.”

DCH has called a mass rally on 8 February next year and is asking trade unions and local authorities to sponsor the event and help organise transport to bring tenants, union members and councillors down to lobby their MPs.

Photographers’ protest

The media highlighted the disgraceful treatment of Walter Wolfgang at Labour’s conference but it is worth noting a less reported event on conference floor, this time with disgruntled photographers.

The Labour Party press office announced they were to restrict floor access to photographers during Tony Blair’s speech for “health and safety” reasons — though no such restrictions were used during Gordon Brown’s conference speech the previous day.

All but a few hand picked photographers were kept off conference floor.

Those not chosen decided to march into the conference and call all the photographers outside for a mass meeting. Within three minutes the press office caved in and granted our demands.

This united response shows photographers are fed up with Labour’s stage management, from the election through to our treatment by the police around the London bombings.

For an alternative view of politics and media manipulation the SS Robin, a floating gallery moored in the London Docklands, is hosting an exhibition by the British Press Photographers Association called Never Mind the Ballots. Go to

Jess Hurd


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