The high point this year was a serious credit to our delegation, our whole CLP and the many campaigners who worked feverishly throughout the first day to achieve it. Our genuinely radical and transformative housing motion gained 216,000 priority votes, the highest of any. It would then be taken to a composite meeting, which for the uninitiated is where the various motions on a subject have been copied into a single document, the final wording of which is wrangled over until a consensus is formed. Unfortunately, business was already running late so the meeting didn’t start until 8:30 pm, Cathy Glynn-Davis and I duly dashing through the labyrinthine recesses of the Metropole, only to find we’d have to wait a further twenty minutes for the Shadow Housing Minister. After which, the doors would literally be locked until we reached agreement. To our surprise, the key sticking point turned out not be ending Right To Buy but putting a sum to the overall spend, which the Shadow Minister robustly refused to countenance, despite my calling for a vote on it three times. Eventually, Cathy nailed her on the figures and Lucy Powell committed to building 150,000 homes. Next day, the motion was carried unanimously, much to our delight and, yes, pride.
I should add that it was then quite the jump-cut after all the hair-splitting and pinhead-dancing at that meeting, to find myself as the only sober soul on a midnight train heaving with young people, their minds about as far away from politics as it’s humanly possible to be. I just hope that at least a couple of them get to live in one of those houses. Transport was, of course, a nightmare throughout, attempting to travel the mere eleven miles to Brighton in the teeth of train diversions, fuel gridlock and truly vicious downpours. It was as if the Tories had lost control of the country but gained it over the weather. And I tip my hat to Worthing West’s Lysanne Skinner, who did the whole thing, uncomplaining, on one leg.
There were many moving, insightful and inspiring speeches from Members. Battles were won, most notably on the Green New Deal. At times we were bathed in the heart-warming glow of solidarity, as in the Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ and Afghanistan debates, and there were moments that will stay with me for life, like the elderly lady at a bus stop who, seeing my lanyard, clutched my arm and thanked me for ‘what we were trying to do’.
There was intrigue aplenty too, seated as we were beside the CWU delegation, who by the way, commended our voting and conduct throughout. And I was lucky enough to witness from only a couple of feet an impromptu backstage exchange between Messrs Starmer and Burnham. There were the team moments, like Cathy deftly guiding me away from a lairy suit, and the outrageous attempts of Brain Devlin to drag me kicking and screaming into a vegan salad bar. And the electric, euphoric Tribune rally, which will doubtless go down in socialist folklore, such was its exultant intensity but which is already fading for me into sepia nostalgia. And the dizzying blast of imposter syndrome, when you find yourself being lobbied over your morning coffee – by Vanessa Redgrave.
There was also Cathy’s courageous speech of course, topped off with her appearance on the news. And Pauline’s too, on Palestine. The joyful conversations with complete strangers, people about whom you know nothing except that their hearts are surely in the right place.