Work took me today to Southwark Labour Party's annual conference. This is an excellent innovative idea. The staid annual evening meeting of activists within a Council area has been transformed into a day of debate with access to decision makers. Labour is in opposition to a Liberal Democrat and Conservative administration in the London Borough of Southwark. This conference moves around Southwark, last year it was in Walworth, this year it was at the Beormund Centre in the heart of Simon Hughes MP's Bermondsey seat. There are many Labour councillors and plenty of activists present, including a sizable number of young people.
Turnout was higher than expected with standing room only for the almost 100 people attending. Thanks to fellow Labour blogger John Friary for these pictures.
It is always a good sign at Conferences like this when when you see the penultimate speaker of the day attending from first thing. Val Shawcross (4th picture) London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark has always been attentive to her work. She is a very sound choice to be Labour's candidate in Bermondsey at the general election. The Conference started with an overview from Southwark Labour Group Leader Peter John (picture 1 - sitting on left) highlighting how powerfully the Conservative minority in the governing coalition influenced the Liberal Democrats.
Notwithstanding her many Parliamentary duties Harriet Harman has always been an outstanding constituency MP. Harriet talks about the need to get out on the doors, and how against national trends her Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party have won seats at the last two elections. Her constituency now has Labour councillors representing every ward. Harriet's speech theme was words beginning with C. Commitment, Contact, Community,Councillors and Candidates for the London borough elections next year. Just like Thanet Labour Party she and her local party members are out knocking on doors every weekend.
After lunch, Councillor Steve Reed (picture 3), Leader of Lambeth Council spoke. Labour took back Lambeth from a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition in 2006 against national trends following a deep rooted campaign in the community, so hopefully Southwark will emulate this achievement next year. One of the reasons for Lambeth Labour's success was the way they converted Labour's support in ethnic minority communities into a greater number of candidates. Workshops on key themes for the borough election next year were conducted by leading councillors to help prepare the manifesto.
The Conference was drawn to a close by Ed Miliband MP. He is one of the most in demand speakers in the Labour Party, and he has a natural fluidity I have commended previously.