Labour Party Conference

The labour party conference was held at the end of my street for the last week. Being that close, it was a good incentiveto go along to some free fringe events.

One of the things that came out of much of what I was there for, not just the events but what people were actually talking about, was the about “engagement” and “involvement” across many different areas. It is something that at least some labour wonks seem to care about at the moment, in the context of their interest du jour.

I previously posted about Sunday’s train set analogy at the Make Votes Count event.

Tuesday evening saw an absolutely brilliant idea – put a load of democracy groups in a room and give them free food and wine. Mysociety seemed ubiquitously known and well liked, especially TWFY.

I have no idea what will come out of that event, but the deep conversations that were being had between the groups both represented and visiting were numerous. There’s
something extra about putting people in a room who are already doing stuff in the same area (Exhibits 1 and 2). The organisers were already talking about doing another similar event in the future. I hope they do, preferably in a bar with the music turned off, not just down.

Wednesday night was a social gathering of the Young Fabians. Again, a good cross section of people there who knew of the sites and seemed excited by what our work lets them do.

The speakers of the evening were various MPs including Jack Straw and Martin Salter. Martin gave a (rabble) rousing talk about his work whacking his opponents in Reading.
Fortunately, some good came out of the process. It was interesting to note his emphatic push for making sure that, when good comes out of your work (he used the Reading festival as an example), that you work to get some credit for making decisions that made it possible.

Then came Jack Straw, who has views on Pushing his membership of the Royal Statistical Society to criticise those who do metrics. But offered none of his own suggestions of what metrics should be used instead – indeed proposing that no metrics be used. He talked of his belief in party politics over single issue politics; he talked in favour of the fight as a means of itself. He spoke of his motivation to stand for the Labour party after his (grand?)father was jailed for being a conscientious objector and why he fought against locking people up for what they believed. He didn’t take questions, so didn’t get the chance to be asked how this mapped to current labour policies.

All in all, it was a worthwhile week. Getting out to see a large number of people who actively use the sites, and hearing what they get done as a result. It was nice to hear from someone who works at a cancer charity that she sees responses to questions from TWFY that she doesn’t get from Dehavilland – despite a huge differential in cost (we’re free, they’re not).

It was also good to hear a consistent answer to the question “is there anything else you wish we did?” of “not off hand”.

posted: 01 Oct 2006