I think it is fair to say that I, along with many other Corbyn supporting Labour members, was looking toward to conference with a certain amount of trepidation.
There were rumours of a planned assault on conference by the right wing of the party, there was concern over the NEC’s apparent fudge over ‘open selections’, there was “The People’s Vote” – Brexit, always Brexit!
And so it passed off with barely a murmur of dissent. The conference hall seemed full to the rafters with Corbyn supporting CLP delegates. The Unions were playing friendly. The right wing – Progress in particular – was nowhere to be seen. Our delegates from Somerton and Frome came back positively glowing!
The Labour ship did not run aground on the treacherous Brexit shoals – the composite motion voted for overwhelmingly in the conference hall appears to give the leadership room for manoeuvre (Sir Keir Starmer did however go off script and appeared to suggest that Labour would campaign for Remain! Deliberate? Who knows.).
Still, we have not ended up with Open Selection (for Parliamentary Candidates) in the true sense, albeit that the formulation arrived at does make the maths of challenging a sitting right wing MP a little easier. The threshold for nominations for leader not as low as some left-wingers would want.
I would maintain that the left within Labour has to face facts.
The Labour Party since it’s inception over 100 years ago has oftentimes been as keen on defeating the left as it has been in fighting the Tories. There are many long serving Labour members who remain sceptical about the Corbyn project.
There are those, like Aaron Bastani of Novara Media who regard these democratic fudges as a wasted opportunity of historic proportions. He could be right. Perhaps it is truer that in democratic terms, both within and without the Labour Party, we still have a mountain to climb.
The gains that have been made by the left in Britain in the last three years have been considerable but insufficient. We are still at base camp. If we really want to transform British society and tip the power relations in favour of the people then we have no option but to keep on organising, keep on debating, keep on forming policies.
Labour 18, perhaps represents a positive further step, without being everything we might wish for.