Labour Party conference 2021 will take place from 25 to 29 September in Brighton, in-person unless a new Covid spike brings new curbs by then. This will be an important point for the left of the labour movement to regroup and halt its retreat and dissipation.
Getting good rule changes through Labour conference is always a long and intricate process, so probably the best chances for political regrouping will be around motions and policy. The deadline for motion submissions is 13 September. Many local Labour Parties have already decided their motions. Others will decide in August or early September.
Starmer won his election as Labour Party leader with 60% of the vote in 2020. This was an indicator of how badly the Corbyn project had been discredited. Corbyn’s chosen successor, Rebecca Long-Bailey, got a much lower vote share than Corbyn received in 2015 and 2016.
But Starmer was elected on the basis of a manifesto that promised a continuation of at least part of Corbyn’s left-wing political platform, and with the advantage of being independent of the widely (and rightly) mistrusted fixers in Corbyn’s leader’s office, Murray, Milne and Murphy.
Since his election, Starmer has shifted substantially to the right, reverting to the Miliband-era tactic of agreeing with the government on the fundamentals and offering small, qualified criticisms here and there — a “small target” strategy that avoids doing anything bold, decisive, or setting out an alternative agenda. He has sought to shore up his authority by picking fights with the pro-Corbyn left through high-profile disciplinary measures. Most recently, that office-led fight against the left has been stepped up with a decision by the National Executive Committee to introduce speedy summary expulsion for associates of Socialist Appeal and other pro-Corbyn groupings.
Left-wing policies winning out at conference would be a signal to the rest of the movement that the Labour left has not gone away. It would provide a boost to attempts to re-organise the Labour left more broadly.
In particular, the politics of the internationalist left need to be re-asserted, against any and all accommodation to Johnson’s Brexit nationalism and anti-migrant demagogy. We want working-class, socialist internationalism, rather than the Blairite internationalism of NATO and global capitalist institutions.
Momentum Internationalists is backing the “left consensus” candidates for the Conference Arrangement Committee (Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes: voting 5 July to 13 August) and for the National Constitutional Committee (which Starmer hopes to abolish in favour of an appointed, not elected, body), and is focusing effort on motions including these:
• Build Back Fairer — working-class demands on how society should be rebuilt in and after the pandemic
• China, Hong Kong and the Uyghurs — a motion expressing solidarity with the Hong Kong democracy movement and the struggle of the Uyghur people against repression and genocide; and taking a position against Cold-War rhetoric from western powers
• Global climate justice — for a serious and socially-just response to climate change
• Migrants welcome — a motion from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement