Well! No post yesterday because I was down in London at the first national meeting of Left Unity:
The morning began with introductions and what you might broadly call statements of attitude and belief: it was interesting to hear where people were coming from and what they wanted from the group, where they thought it should go and what they might bring to it. If I had been in charge of this session I think I might have given half an hour to small-group discussion and then feedback as some people began grandstanding and making speeches. What was crystal-clear, however, was a widespread determination to avoid the mistakes of the past and crucially, to prevent socialist groups from hijacking the party (if it becomes a party). Speaker after speaker said the same thing: that we must not allow Socialist Workers or Militant or any other special-interest group to take us over. I found that encouraging, if a little startling that so many people seemed to have had bad experiences in this regard – but forewarned is forearmed and I think our strength will lie in quite simply the numbers of ordinary, unafilliated people and our determination to avoid takeover. The debate did get rather bogged down at one point and I left the room for a few deep breaths as people started to bang on about what we could and couldn’t decide on, since we hadn’t been properly and democratically constituted. It’s this kind of debate, seething with Points of Order, which tends to make me lose the will to live and I did leave the room at one point in order to breathe and recite a few mantras. However, we soon got back on track and were all heartened by the appearance in our midst of Ken Loach (for it was he!) Yes, God bless him, the man himself had come among us and after lunch he gave a short and very inspiring speech which I think focussed us all on why we were there.
I was struck by the differences in style of many of the people there and how, whilst some, like me, are simply frustrated former Labour voters, others clearly come from more political backgrounds where they are used to doing things in a certain way and wanted to keep doing them in that way. One of the bones of contention was whether groups should be allowed to affiliate to Left Unity, which might (as I understand them) give those groups – such as Trades Unions etc – more sway in the form of a block vote. There was widespread opposition to this and it was eventually voted down as we decided overwhelmingly to adopt OMOV ie One Member One Vote.
The meeting ended with a sense that we had got back on track and made some worthwhile decisions, including to hold a conference in November where ideas can be ratified and a committee established. In the meantime I have put my name forward for an interim organising group and I am waiting as we speak for the results of the vote. There were some great people there: apart from Ken (with whom I had a brief chat – he’s a really ordinary bloke; quite shy really) there was Kate Hudson, Chair of CND and some other really interesting and personable people.
I have a number of comments to make on inclusive language and the utterly abhorrent fake glottal stop, but I shall save those for tomorrow.
And thanks to Sheila for getting the train tickets.
Personal views on inclusive and ordinary language.