When I was invited to an exclusive event, commemorating 130 years since the inception of Keir Hardies Independent Labour Party, with a meeting of exactly 130 people capable of beginning something similar, in the actual building where it happened 130 years ago! I felt honoured.
I didn’t consider that many of the people there would be trying to plug the holes in the leaky Liebour ship we have now.
I didnt know the half of it !
Upon arrival, there were lots of fantastic people rushing about putting the final touches in place for what looked to be a very special day. It seemed all the local activists and campaigners, media, movers and shakers, were there. Yet still it didn’t occur to me, why are there only 5 reps of national organisations ?
Ian Hodson, president of the BFAWU . Thelma Walker, ex mp and Co founder of PAL. Alec Mays, Founder of Breakthrough. Doug Thorpe, national secretary of Left Unity. James Lock, Co founder of Opus.
Plus 3 national media, one of which was me.
If it had been billed as a local community initiative networking meeting, it would have been spot on, because in the end that’s what it was..
But it wasn’t, it was hyped as :
🚩 130 years ago, 130 people gathered in Bradford with a common purpose: to create a society that worked for everyone.
🌹Out of that meeting the Independent Labour Party was formed.
🚨 130 years later, 130 people are again meeting in Bradford to create a better future.
How did the original Keir Hardie group make that leap from a local initiative to a national party and how were the organisers planning on recreating that? Was going to be my first question, but then it all kicked off and though I did get to ask that question eventually, I dont think I got an answer and I’m not sure there was one.
As the start of the event fast approached, a few of us learned that another national organisation called the Peace and Justice Project had been invited, but their representative had been refused admittance by the organisers. The rep was already on a train from London, 200 miles away, so one of the facilitators left to meet her. The rep, Ms Alvarez, is a Mexican human rights activist, who has given so much to this country in the time she has been here, and would have been a valuable contributor to the event. I protested to the organisers, loudly! They explained, it was because of who her husband was, and that if she came, one of the organisers would leave, and the other organiser wouldn’t be able to run the event on their own, so she had to be banned. They further explained that her husband had already been told he couldn’t attend, and had agreed not to, and they believed he had sent his wife deliberately to provoke this sort of reaction.
The other two national media left soon after this to go and meet the P&J rep in solidarity with her, outraged at the organisers dictatorial ruling.
The day went further down the rabbit hole from there..
The two organisers introduced themselves and outlined their idea that had led to this event, then introduced Allan Brack. A local artist/activist who gave the history of the mill, life in Bradford in 1890 ish, the strikes, formation of the ILP and then subsequent work as an artist which were the centenary in 1993 and the work to turn the space we were in into a community centre. Sadly one of the organisers kept interrupting him and then cut his talk short as they announced that the timetable had to be adhered to and it was time to move on.
Ian Hodson gave a rousing speech, about inclusion, aimed at the organisers.
Not many people were listening by the time Thelma, Alec and Doug made their announcement about their merger, they also spoke of their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Project, again aimed at the organisers.
The format for the event was focused on 4 roundtable discussions, from these we learned that every attendee was there on behalf of their local campaign, organisation, or social activist group.
They were almost exclusively mainstream media educated and comments included, “I will never forgive Jeremy Corbyn for being anti semitic ” and “Starmer was mp of the year, so he’s the one to vote for”
Apart from that there was very little talk of politics and the day ended early, with some networking amongst local groups established and very little else.
The organisers at no point made any statement to the gathering about their exclusion of Ms Alvarez, and have not apologised to her or anyone else that protested their unilateral decision to stop an invited guest taking part.
A very disappointing day all round and not one I will be repeating. Sorry Keir Hardie ..