Spring Conference – Saturday

March 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm / by

I had a great weekend at Spring Conference in Birmingham. I went up on Friday night with one of the very active members of London Young Labour, Lucy Openshaw, and we stayed at a hotel near the ICC.

Saturday started off with Gordon Brown’s speech and the most significant bits for me, as Women’s Officer for LYL, were about equal pay for women and protection for agency workers. Gordon said:

“And because I too worry about workers left vulnerable, agency workers denied fair treatment and women denied equality in the workplace, we will honour our promises to stop good employers being undercut by the bad: dignity and fairness for all at work.”

However, I have to say that my favourite line was:

“In truth it’s photo opportunities for themselves the Conservatives seek; it’s opportunities for the people of Britain that we seek.”

It just sums up the Tory attitude perfectly!

We then had a Q&A session where Gordon seemed more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him before. The questions from the crowd ranged from health to education to Palestine. I had my hand up for ages but unfortunately I didn’t get picked. I guess you need to be over 5ft to get noticed in that crowd!

Just after Gordon’s speech, I managed to catch Foreign Secretary, David Miliband and had a long chat to him about the worrying political situation in Bangladesh. He’s just come back from Bangladesh and I asked him when democracy would be restored in my homeland. He said that he had had assurance from the present caretaker government that there would be parliamentary elections by the end of this year and that he was working on ensuring that all political prisoners receive a free and fair trial. If you’re reading this Mr Miliband, I’m going to hold you to that! I also had a great photo of myself with David but unfortunately my camera got stolen so I’m just going to have to ask him for another one next time I see him.

In the afternoon, I attended a number of seminars based around the role of women in politics. The first session with Barbara Follett, Parliamentary Secretary for Equality, centred on the culture of politics and the lack of confidence that women suffered from in public life. She spoke about how there was a desperate need for more women to be involved not only in Parliament but also in areas like the judiciary. I have to admit I was quite shocked when she told us about the chauvinistic attitude of some male MPs in the chambers but she did stress that this wasn’t reflective of all male MPs. On a lighter note, she gave us some girl-to-girl fashion advice about what NOT to wear during a political meeting!

At another seminar I went to, Fiona Mactaggart MP spoke about how women politicians were always regarded through the prism of their gender. She also explained certain rules about the selection process for prospective parliamentary candidates and the importance of appealing to certain groups of voters. She recounted her own experiences as a female politician and told us that her number one rule was to do something embarrassing every single day (I should have no problem following that rule, as my family will tell you!). I found it interesting that, although she encouraged us to put ourselves forward, she stressed the importance of having a clear idea of why we wanted to be politicians. Most of the seminars that I’ve been to don’t address the motivation behind prospective politicians but it is a really important issue and Fiona made it clear that there’s no room for half-hearted candidates.

I finished off the day with the Ethnic Minority Forum with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears, Keith Vaz MP and Parmjit Dhanda.

Hazel spoke about the Reach Project which addresses the serious challenges that young Black men face in every sector of society. I think it sounds like a wonderful project and one which will hopefully help disadvantaged young men.

This was the first time I’ve seen Parmjit speak and I was impressed with his enthusiasm and ideas. He spoke about the death of Stephen Lawrence and pointed out that it took the election of a Labour government in 1997 to produce the Macpherson report. The Tories had the opportunity but did nothing about it.

The Forum ended with a Q&A session and this time I managed to ask Hazel a question about empowering young people and about consultation with hard-to-reach sections of the population.

After a really fruitful day, I went off with London Young Labour members to explore the joys of Broad Street and I have to say that the bouncer at Revolution who asked for my ID made my day even better! Do I really look under 18?