Labour Party in Northern Ireland – conference on Saturday #lpniconf

1 views

Labour Party in Northern IrelandIt’s the Labour Party in Northern Ireland’s conference on Saturday 10 March in Belfast’s Malone Lodge Hotel. All party conferences are fascinating people watching events. The smaller parties often exhibit a greater passion when arguing over policy issues than the larger parties.

On Saturday morning, LPNI will be holding their AGM and conducting their internal business, electing internal party officers and discussing members’ motions. LPNI do have quotas for female representation: at least three women must be elected to the six positions on the national Executive Committee, and at least two of the five Conference Arrangements Committee must be female.

Update – Details of the Labour NI AGM and afternoon conference (technically not a full ‘party conference’) in a new post, including a synopsis (and audio) of the main talks.

Like some of the other local party conferences, it’s a family-friendly event and “members are invited to bring supervised children”.

Since the last General Election, the Labour Party in Northern Ireland has increased its activity. Labour NI’s vice chair Kevin McAdam says that their “membership is up by 70%” since May 2010. Delegates have attended the main UK Labour Party conference, and they’ve been helping with Labour Party campaigns in the Republic of Ireland too.

While LPNI members ship is measured in hundreds rather than thousands, union membership is in excess of a quarter of a million and of those around 32,000 trade union members pay a political levy. Labour HQ has long kept Northern Ireland as a no go area for contesting elections. Labour NI argue that while the SDLP has merits and much support from Labour members, the lack of a formal link with the trade unions together with the nationalist ideology makes it an imperfect solution for Labour activists in NI.

Labour NI continue to lobby to be able to field candidates and contest elections in NI. They would designate as ‘Other’ if elected to the Assembly and would seek to avoid being just seen as the unionist alternative to the SDLP.

The afternoon sessions are open to the public from 2pm looking at Education, the Economy and the relationship with the UK Labour Party.

  • Prof Tony Gallagher will be leading the discussion on “meeting the challenge of continuing educational inequities” with contributions from the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities as well as Platform for Change.
  • Pamela Nash – MP for Airdrie and Shotts, 27 year old Baby of the House, and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Vernon Coaker (Shadow Secretary of State for NI) – will address the conference.
  • Finally, an economic debate will feature input from the Co-operative Party and NICVA.
  • GoldenFleece

    Good luck to them! These are the sort of political parties we need to get out of the politically stagnant swamp we live in.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I feel they a real chink of light in the darkness at the moment in an NI politics still dominated by the border issue, long after the border has stopped being an issue for the foreseeable future.

    Labour HQ’s policy on not fielding candidates in Northern Ireland is nonsensical and the sooner they see the light on this the better. It is just wrong that people in NI have no chance to vote for (or reject) the big parties of government in Westminster elections. And leaving Labour’s NI ‘presence’ to the SDLP is clearly no solution for British people in NI, given the SDLP’s lack of long term commitment to the UK.

    With Labour NI there is a chance to build a cross-community left of centre voice by dealing with NI as it is (that is, in the UK for the foreseeable future). This wouldn’t make it ‘unionist’, unless any party working within the GFA is automatically considered unionist. They give a real opportunity for NI to play its part in national politics and take the Province in from the margins. Labour NI’s success could also help post-Troubles normalisation.

    We might not all be on the left but we should all support the emergence of parties that deal with the big national and international issues. Local parties, while having their merits, encourage a parochial, disconnected worldview which does Northern Ireland no favours.

  • http://www.organizedrage.com/ Mickhall

    Whilst we are on the Labour Party, that pro Boris Johnson add slugger is carrying is a new low for this site. Is slugger really going to go the same way as US TV, showing political spoilers for cash. The end result being it is not the politics of the candidates which decide the election, but the candidate with the biggest pot to fund these adds.

    There are major political differences between Livingstone and Johnson, do we really need to reduce this contest to the gutter when there is so much politically we can chew over?

    Not Sluggers finest hour.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    MU, Labour NI as it stands i.e. part of the British Labour Party becoming a ‘cross community left of centre voice’ is a unionist (with a small ‘u’!) pipe dream. You’re falling into the trap of telling nationalists what they should think (i.e. the whole border thing is settled now so wise up and remember you’re in the UK sort of thing) .

    However if it’s a joint British Labour & Irish Labour venture maybe then you have a chance of a genuine cross community angle (the SDLP might get a bit miffed tho’).

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    TS,

    I think you’re getting too caught up in the symbolism. Shouldn’t political parties be judged on how well they deliver policies, rather than who they associate with? Any Labour party worth its name in NI would obviously be a member of Socialist International and the PES, and historically, British Labour has been seen as sympathetic to Irish Nationalism.

  • Dec

    MU

    I believe Labour NI’s policy is to support the GFA and any constitutional changes that may emerge out of that. Therefore they’ve as much committment to the ‘long term future of the UK’ as the SDLP. In theory, of course.

    ‘They give a real opportunity for NI to play its part in national politics and take the Province in from the margins. Labour NI’s success could also help post-Troubles normalisation. ‘

    Do NI Tories and Labour NI share the same speech-writer?

  • iluvni

    After all these years, they are still the uninvited guests within the Labour party.
    They arent wanted or valued, are permitted to organise through the threat of court action, when will they take the hint?

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    “Do NI Tories and Labour NI share the same speech-writer?”

    Basically….yes. There are groups which advocate “normal” (ie unionist) politics. Left versus Right. Which I think has already been identified as a pipe dream.
    It should be interesting to see who actually attends.
    But what exactly is their “future”? and is sending the Baby of The House” to their Conference an indication of how they are viewed by the British Labour Party.
    No Vernon Coaker?

    Is Labour Party NI really going to stand in 18 (or 16) constituencies? Or just South Belfast with a QUB lecturer as candidate?
    Will they exceed 250 votes……taking some of the 250 from other Parties and bringing possibly new voters into the system. Will 200 of those votes be transferred and if so to whom?
    And are they are a component part of the Labour Party (as Raynsford and Hoey have been advocating for years) ?
    Or a fellow member of Socialist International?

  • Wasted Ballot

    Wow, so any party that believes the people of northern ireland should be allowed to have ‘normal’ politics are unionists? That is some of the most hate driven nonsense i have ever heard.

    While I no longer share the labour party’s view on any number of subjects, especially the talentles,s self absorbed shell of a clp it has in NI, it can only be welcomed that they are finally starting to take themselves seriously and let the public have a glimpse of what they hope to achieve.

    The real test will be if they can attract politically ambitious resident to fight the cause with them instead the current group that are effectively at a stalemate with their HQ.

  • Zig70

    I’d like to see a sensible Ulster party representing right or left. The only chance of success is to be indigenous so I’ll not give NILP much notice. UK or Southern imports will always be tainted. In my view the SDLP should be doing more to have this ground covered. Why haven’t we had anyone trying to form an indigenous party? Are the costs prohibitive or is that career politicians need someone to pay the wages?

  • SK

    “This wouldn’t make it ‘unionist’, unless any party working within the GFA is automatically considered unionist.”
    _

    Uno momento, Mainland Ulsterman..

    You’ve said yourself that British people in Northern Ireland will only vote for a party with a “long term commitment to the UK”. If Labour fits that profile, how can it not be considered unionist? How is it possible for a bunch of lefties with a long term unionist commitment to classify themselves as “cross community”?

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is yet another imported party controlled from London – so it will fail, it is as simple as that.

  • weidm7

    The enigma of Irish unionism raises up once more, they see themselves as British, as ‘one and the same’ as the mainlanders, to paraphrase from a slugger commenter, yet the UK Labour is a ‘import’ from London. I humbly don’t understand why the ‘British’ Irishmen refuse to vote for British parties, choosing instead to vote for Irish parties, while refusing to share a nation with the rest of their Irish compatriots.

    Vis a vis Labour NI, while it’s a UK Labour initiative, it will fall between two stools, a joint UK/South Labour party, or a completely independent, cross-community Labour party might stand a chance of getting above 1,000 votes. Voters are too parochial in NI, in order to fill a demand, the demand has to be there in the first place.

  • DougtheDug

    From a Scottish perspective Labour are hard line unionist. That may be a different line to the one they push in Northern Ireland but it will be difficult for them to say two different things in two separate places when their words are being monitored.

    They literally loathe the SNP and its aim of independence for Scotland and already they are making moves to unite with the Tories to fight on a single unionist platform against Scottish independence.

    As an example, Brian Donohoe, the MP for Central Ayrshire has agreed to speak at the forthcoming Troon Tory party conference in Scotland after being invited to make a joint case for the Union yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron.

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-opposition-unites-to-make-cause-for-union-1-2159192

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    DougtheDug @ 12:23 pm:

    I didn’t realise to “loathe the SNP” (and, let’s admit, nobody ought to dig too deep in that chequered political history) made one outright Unionist. One lives and learns: hodie extra SNP nulla spes salutis est.

    I also remember a certain Harold Wilson was Chairman of the Labour Party (circa 1959), and the man himself welcomed an original Plough-and-the-Stars as it processed through the closing session of the Annual Conference. Then we sang The Red Flag. That must make me and my aged memory wrong on at least two or even three counts.

  • DougtheDug

    Malcolm Redfellow @ 5:51 pm

    It’s not the party per se that Labour loathe, it’s the idea of Scottish independence. Ever since the SNP election win in May 2011 Labour have been cosying up to their unionist chums in Scotland.

    “There needs to be a three-party campaign, ourselves, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories,”

    Jim Murphy, Labour Shadow Defence Secretary, The Guardian, Friday 13 January 2012
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/13/jim-murphy-labour-scotland-union

    She (Johan Lamont, Scottish Regional Labour Leader)also confirmed that both former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown and ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling would soon be joining the pro-Union campaign, and that she would work with Conservatives and Liberal Democrat figures in a joint pro-Union effort.

    Scotsman, Sunday 4 March 2012
    http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/politics/scottish-independence-johann-lamont-says-no-powers-bidding-war-1-2152365

    Details of secret meetings held between Scottish Labour MPs and UK coalition Ministers, only days after the SNP’s historic May election win, have emerged following a Freedom of Information request. The meetings, one of which took place only three days after May’s election result was confirmed, involved Scottish MPs from the Tory, Lib Dem and Labour parties. Documents released reveal that Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore had a secret meeting with his then Labour shadow counterpart Ann McKechin on May 9th to discuss the constitution, the meeting came only three days after the SNP achieved a historic majority win in the Scottish election. Ms McKechin had a further two secret meetings with Mr Moore; however the subject under discussion at those meetings has not been revealed. In all, since June 2010, the documents show Ms McKechin met with Mr Moore eight times, half of the meetings give the subject as the constitution, the other half do not reveal the nature of discussions. The documents also show that Ms McKechin’s colleague, and former Scottish Secretary of State Jim Murphy, met with Mr Moore in July 2010 whilst still in his shadow SoS role, again however the subject under discussion remains unknown. The documents show other meetings involving Tory MP David Mundell, Labour’s Ian Davidson, Tom Greatrex (Lab), Cathie Jamieson (Lab), Lindsay Roy (Lab), Jim McGovern (Lab) and Fiona O’Donnell (Lab)

    Newsnet, Wednesday, 21 December 2011
    http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-politics/3936-foi-request-reveals-labour-secret-meetings-with-coalition-ministers-after-snp-victory

    Labour may have sung the Red Flag but they never meant it.

    The People’s Flag is Palest Pink sums them up to a tee.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    If they ran, it’d be interesting to see the southern Labour Party’s Northern constituency council run as well; they could end up running against each other in the same areas.

  • aquifer

    The British Labour party has lots of activists of Irish extraction and an antipathy to the Union, which is viewed as an artificial Tory construct, so will always fall short of allowing representation here. Labour do more politics than they do principles, so did not honour their pre-election commitments to PR in Britain, and will not respect citizens here enough to ever allow them to vote for the UK labour government.

    Local Labourites would have to do their own thing electorally, but most of them cannot tell their socialism from their realism and will not co-operate well enough to get elected.

  • Jack2

    iluvni
    9 March 2012 at 2:27 pm

    “After all these years, they are still the uninvited guests within the Labour party.
    They arent wanted or valued, are permitted to organise through the threat of court action, when will they take the hint?”

    Remember the signs of the 60′s?
    No Blacks (Bernie Grant 1987 – 1st Black Labour MP)
    No Dogs (David Blunketts dog)
    No Irish (ermmm..)

    Just because some narrow minds dont want you doesnt mean you dont fight!

    /used to be a member of the Labour Party way back when NILP had only double digit numbers….resigned when it was obvious the Iraq War was based on lies.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Is it really ‘unionist’ to want to get on with real politics and government and stop obsessing with ethnic identity issues? It’s not to say the ethnic divide isn’t central to Northern Irish life, but there are other things that matter too.

    As far as I know Labour doesn’t seek to play to one or other of the tribes in NI particularly; it’s been associated with a strong Irish nationalist voice at times and it also has contained some convinced unionists. The right to have a border poll is there in the GFA and no one’s rights to their identity are going to be affected if they support a party without a community allegiance.

    I agree people active in politics need to be local to be credible in NI, but I don’t see why they can only do so through parties that are confined to NI. Why not be part of bigger national parties too? It doesn’t make you any less ‘indigenous’, if that’s an issue for people.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I called into the Conference but only had a few minutes. Seemed more like a seminar in terms of numbers attending.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    FJH – Once again we miss each other!

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Actually I was a bit surprised at the way it was all set out.
    The circular tables made me think of a wedding reception. And the red balloons made me think Id wandered into a speed dating event on Valentines Day.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I thought a significant number of their members were GB QUB students, so even a 70% increase on single figure numbers is a bit of an achievement.

    I agree people active in politics need to be local to be credible in NI, but I don’t see why they can only do so through parties that are confined to NI.

    We had this, various forms of the Tories, various forms of the Whigs, various forms of the Nationalist Party and various forms of Sinn Féin have fought the fight on two fronts. Absentee landlordism and juxtapositional logic has allowed regional parties to grow.

    If it is so important for British parties to have power over the representation in Northern Ireland why not kill the assembly and force direct rule or ban regional parties.

    I understand though, I look at David “Two Brains can’t change a Lightbulb” Willets and Vince “Can’t Minister, Won’t Ministerr” Cable making a complete mess up of the Economic department and feel for the people of England, surely Murphy and McCausland would’ve done a better job. Fianna Fail probably would’ve done a better job dare I say it.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast
  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I think that we need to see the “Labour Party” membership figures in context.
    The Secretarys Report indicates that membership has probably fallen. There was seemingly a 70% rise in the previous year. Official membership numbers for LPNI are 325………and if there are 70 members at QUB then that is more than 20% of the entire membership.
    It is in the nature of students that many are not resident in a place for longer than a few years.
    It is likely that a significant number of the QUB members are “English” and want to retain some kind of connexion to the British Labour Party.
    Indeed the LPNIs Student Officer elected at the 2011 Conference resigned from the Executive because he moved to Liverpool.
    Speaking of the 2011 Conference, it was attended by 58 members (in an election year). ……17 were elected to the Party Executive.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    FJH – My only quibble with your stats would be that not all the members of the student society will be paid up members of the party. It’s not a big affair …

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Wasted Ballot

    ‘so any party that believes the people of northern ireland should be allowed to have ‘normal’ politics are unionists? That is some of the most hate driven nonsense I have ever heard.’

    Why is it ‘hate-driven’ to say that someone is a unionist? I mean, unionism may or may not be your cup of tea, but ‘unionism’ is hardly a term of abuse, or an objectively wicked thing, is it?

    Mainland Ulsterman

    ‘Is it really ‘unionist’ to want to get on with real politics and government and stop obsessing with ethnic identity issues?’

    Depends what you mean by ‘ethnic identity issues.’ I suspect that that rather purple term refers to opposition to partition or support for Irish unity. I know you are on record as arguing – very eloquently – for nationalists to stop being nationalists. Now, whatever one might make of such a proposition, if this is what’s meant by ‘stopping obsessing with ethnic identity issues,’ then yes, of course this is both implicitly and explicitly unionist.

    Nothing wrong with that, but please, be honest, and don’t think you’re being clever. Ulster folk will see right through you.

    ‘I agree people active in politics need to be local to be credible in NI, but I don’t see why they can only do so through parties that are confined to NI.’

    The question you might ask yourself is: why, indeed, haven’t the big parties from the ‘mainland’ (sic) prospered here?

    I’d suggest you look beyond a simple dismissal of the population here are too stupid/backward/sectarian etc to see what’s best.

    I reckon you’re one of the smartest and most articulate posters on this site, and you also strike me as a nice, well-meaning bloke, but one who has been away for a while, and has missed the change in atmosphere here.

    One of the most profound changes you may have missed (and it has happened organically and ineluctably) is that generally speaking, unionists treat nationalists, and nationalism, with a basic level of respect nowadays. They are less likely now, for example, to be so disrespectful as to define nationalism as a simple ‘obsession with ethnic identity issues.’ (At least, not on a day to day basis.)

    (Which, if you’re honest, you totally did.)

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Billy,
    I was referring to both unionists and nationalists, not just nationalists, when I talked about obsessing with ethnic identity issues. We’re as guilty of it as anyone. And I haven’t been away so long as to be above it myself. But I just think a bit less of it would be a good idea.

    I hope I do actually treat nationalists with respect in reality and I’m sorry if it doesn’t come across here. I probably err on the side of being in yer face, but I think it’s quite consistent to pick holes in the nationalist belief system while respecting Irish nationalists as people. I don’t mind that some home truths about unionism have come to me from nationalists; I would ask nationalists to listen likewise when reasonable objections are raised. I didn’t ask nationalists to stop being nationalists, I asked them to stop being 32 county nationalists, which is different. (Wanting unity for Irish Catholic people is fine and I can understand that, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to drag any more unwilling Ulster Brits in with them than is absolutely necessary. This is why I think repartition, not a whole island state, ought to be the logical end-game for Irish nationalists.) I am back in Northern Ireland pretty regularly and my wife works on Irish history so it’s not like I’ve been in a cave for 20 years.

    I think big parties haven’t done well here for a few reasons. The main one is that the Tories are the only ones to really have a go and they’re a bunch of w***ers. Of course they’re going to do badly, they are dominated by the very kind of English people that Northern Irish, Scottish, Welsh (and let’s face it, most English people) least like.

    But I’ve long felt Labour could find a resonance in NI, if they only wanted to …

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    AlaninBelfast,
    I take the point.
    Merely wish to point out that speculation about membership (and arguably strength or lack of it) can be guaged by numbers from LPinNI itself. They are the best available guide.
    The demographic of the membership is also interesting. The stereotype of LPinNI is of university lecturers and trade union leaders (but not of course members of trade unions) but certainly I only recognised one person who fitted that bill.
    ………although reference was made to well known trade unionists was made (the late Frank Bunting for example).
    Bearing in mind that there were probably less than 100 people there (58 being the 2011 figure) there seemed a disproportionate number of people there who were not actually members.
    Tony Gallagher, Robin Wilson (Platform for Change), Patrick Yu for example.

  • jc89

    Indeed the LPNIs Student Officer elected at the 2011 Conference resigned from the Executive because he moved to Liverpool.

    @fitzjameshorse. I would appreciate it if wouldn’t comment on things when you do not know the facts. I left the executive because I had work in America and then I moved to Liverpool to find work until an opportunity came up. I am now back in Belfast but as I moved away to gain experience for 6 months and earn my keep it seemed like a responsible thing to do to move aside and let someone who was on the ground take over. Now I don’t understand what makes it different that I move to find work than anyone else. I am just as committed as any one who was born here to standing candidates in Northern Ireland.

    The position on the union is clear. Due to the Good Friday Agreement all parties are signed up to the consent principle, dare I say it this makes Sinn Fein and the DUP as unionist/nationalist as each other. We have a diverse membership from both main communities as well as others. The constitutional question is a matter of conscience and it is up to each member to decide personally what way they would vote in a referendum. What LPNI wants to see is Labour values in Northern Ireland until the time that the people decide to vote for a united Ireland if that happens. I don’t see how anyone can argue against that position.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I would appreciate it if you read the Secretarys report which stated that the Student Officer had resigned and another person co-opted as he had gone to Liverpool.

    You have a very diverse membership…….of officially 325.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    What LPNI wants to see is Labour values in Northern Ireland

    What exactly are the ‘Labour values’ that are so sorely missing from this state? The SDLP as social democrats and British Labour’s partner in the PES and SI would surely represent much of the same politics, would they not?

    Or by ‘Labor values’ do you mean something along the lines of supporting wars of aggression and invading Middle Eastern countries?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Or by ‘Labor values’ do you mean something along the lines of supporting wars of aggression and invading Middle Eastern countries?

    Well the abortion part is taken up by the Socialists and People before Profit usually. I heard Labour NI opposed corporation tax lowering too.