This weekend I went to my very first political conference! I was a volunteer but looked very official in my suit, clipboard in hand and with a nifty ‘staff’ lanyard. It was a great event, with speakers ranging from Ed Miliband to Polly Toynbee and was -without a doubt-, the most politically engaging event I’ve been to. And was perfectly rounded off with a glass of white wine, or two… or three..
The most exciting event of the day happened quite early, it was, of course Ed Miliband’s speech. In which he appeared confident and finally put housing on the agenda. There has been a serious lack of social housing built, especially in inner cities, especially in London. Right to buy was a fine idea, it allowed people to own the homes that they grew up in, great, no problem with that. In fact, I know that my family -and many others- were positively affected by this and the flat that I lived in for a large part of my life was ex-council in Highbury. What I disagree with was the subsequent lack of social housing that was built, a legacy that has been extended, regardless of political party, even to this day. This is an issue that has affected house and rental prices for the worst. A room (just a room, no bills included) in Islington in a poorly insulated flat with damp problems and sharing with 2 other people costs nearly £600 per month (the lower end of the market), and that’s the kind of price deemed acceptable for people on a low income (and students) to pay, this seems a little ridiculous when I can rent a recently refurbished, 1 bedroom house for the same price in the centre of Norwich. It’s crazy! If you live in London and think these prices are unacceptable, definitely take part in Shelter’s current campaign to help Boris Johnson redesign London’s renting. I’m glad that the Fabian Society voted for building 1 million new homes as a key priority in the next Labour manifesto, it’s an important pledge and even then, not enough to meet the demands of the growing nation.
In between helping out in the chaotic cloakroom and running around with the roving microphone in various breakouts, I was able to catch the discussion: ‘ Generation Crisis: Is One Nation the answer?’. It was lively to say the least! The main contributors from the audience were a group of elderly ladies at the front, who were very entertaining and kept the speakers on their toes! At one point, one even showed Sunny Hundal (Liberal Conspiracy), the finger! And I thought it was the youth that were supposed to rebel!
As per usual with these sort of events, the day wouldn’t end any other way than having an alcoholic beverage in a relatively ugly place (of course, we couldn’t rent anywhere too nice, we’re socialists after all). And when I say ‘an’ alcoholic beverage, I’ve missed out the ‘m’ and the ‘y’. It was a nice way to end the day, socialising with the other volunteers after a long day on our feet. I was lucky enough to meet Owen Jones and poor guy, he had to take part in what was probably his least intellectually stimulating conversation all day, but at least he was nice about it!
I left the Institute of Education feeling positive, more enthusiastic about Labour’s future and well… a little bit tipsy!