On the 11th of September, I travelled all the way down to Birmingham to attend Labour’s political school. One of the main reasons as to why I decided it would be interesting for me to attend is that this event would further my knowledge of the politics of labour under Jeremy Corbyn, and also the fact that it would expand my view of the world we live in today.
I arrived around 9:40 and had to wait until 10:25 until we were able to go to the main hall and receive our programmes. The first thing I was drawn towards was the fact that the first event of the day was a speech from Corbyn himself, I did find this both exciting and intriguing. I knew it would be a great experience of viewing a speech from an MP, let alone the leader of a political party. However, I don’t consider myself as a socialist and I knew it would be interesting, to say the least, to hear a speech from one. I decided to listen to it with a very open mind, as I was willing to be swayed with the policies and views Corbyn enlisted.
The experience of hearing a speech from the leader of the labour party was surreal, to say the least. I don’t believe that it would be accurate to identify myself as a socialist from this experience, however, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the policies he suggested as the overall achievability of them isn’t ridiculous. One idea he proposed was that of a Green industrial revolution. Humanity won’t be able to pursue the path any longer, as this path will lead to a rise of the global temperature by 3 degrees. One example of the trouble this will cause is the fact that this will lead to the flooding of major cities like Miami, due to rising sea levels. Furthermore, he also proposed that of a national living wage, which seems like a decent idea in theory but begs the question of how it’ll be funded.
After the speech given by Jeremy Corbyn, we were allowed to split into three different fringe groups which were called “ fringe breakouts”. There were three of these in total and I decided to go to the one which discussed trade unions, more specifically how to organise. I chose this over transformative local government and Windrush and the hostile environment. This is because within one of my history papers we are learning about Britain from 1785 to 1870 focusing on the movement to a more modern state. Within this course, trade unionism is a massive part and I thought it would be very interesting to see how tradings compare now to how they can be compared back in the 19th century.
The overall meeting I found to be very inspiring as we were told stories of the horrific experiences some workers have had within their workplace, most notably ASOS, which was deemed to become the next sports direct. We told how some workers are treated very unfairly, for example, we were told a story of a woman who was getting a lot of stress from her current work hours and saw a therapist who recommended her to change her shifts. She discussed this with her manager and was fired. Other talks, for example from Brian Simpson, describes how he ran his own Scottish trade union and how we can become more involved. I learnt from this that anyone can join a trade union within their work and how important and necessary they are in defending workers.
This lead onto 12:45 which was lunch and after that there was a panel for Britain’s role in the world towards a socialist foreign part of the policy. This talk mainly focused on oppressed countries and what their international situations are like and how we could potentially help. The two most notable talks for me was by Asif Mohammed and Dan Carden (MP). Asif Mohammed spoke about the Cuban solidarity campaign and the situation there. Asif said that is despite having a socialist government and limited support from the US blockade occurring, they had very little poverty and high education levels. This showed me a different outlook on socialism, even though I don’t agree with the ideology personally, I began to see some benefits and some ways in which it could actually be rather positive. The other talk was from an MP named Dan Carden, who is actually the acting shadow secretary of state for international development. He spoke of his work and the world we working on this only heightens my political interest and showed me that I do want to work towards a job as an MP potentially in the future and it seems exciting and rewarding.
There were more fringe breakouts at 14:45, which I chose to attend one which was about community organising. I was told stories of corruption within small businesses who had too much money to spend and spent it on the wrong things. We did this exercise which I found to be quite useful where we had a sheet of paper and we drew a cross. On each end of the cross, we had different groups of people and we had a common theme which for us was about public transport. We had to place different ways of getting attention to improving public transport on the piece of paper. For example at the top of the cross was government officials, and we had to find of ways that they would pay attention to public transport. I found this method of jotting things down to be very different to what I’ve ever done in jotting things down however it is very useful and I can say with confidence I’ve used it myself sometimes after the day!
Finally, the last talk was at 4 o’clock with a panel on socialism in our lifetime. This panel spoke on many things to do with Labour law and the way the party is moving. Policies included trade union recognition and access rights to be simplified, Aa framework of stronger statutory rights, enforcement mechanisms will be strengthened and National joint Council’s will be rolled out in every sector to negotiate sectoral collective agreements. To end off this post I’ll explain each of these in more detail. With trade unions, there will be improved and simplified rates for trade unions to inspect workplaces where a member reports non-compliance with the law will be introduced. Also, the laws prohibiting requirements to recognise and/ or negotiate with trade unions in contracts will be repealed. A framework of stronger statutory rights includes a living wage, equal rights from day one for all workers regardless of whether they are employed directly, for an agency, or contracted for a mobile app. There will also be a minimum number of guaranteed hours for all workers and stronger protections against discrimination and harassment plus many more positive policies to protect workers. Enforcement mechanisms include such policies like blacklisting should attract criminal sanctions also failed to pay compensation should be treated as an aggravated breach, attracting financial penalties and criminal sanctions for the worst offenders. Plus many more policies for crime and order. Finally, NGCs will also represent the interests of the sector to the government so that workers, employers and lawmakers can work together to plan future challenges and opportunities, making the best use of emerging technologies and industries to strengthen the UK economy. All these policies sound great but I would wonder how they could be introduced and they would work within our modern society.