New Radical Political Party of the Left Founded in London
People came from across the United Kingdom for the founding conference of Left Unity, a new radical left party brought together by an appeal by Ken Loach to defend the welfare state and present an economic alternative to austerity.
Around 500 people attended the founding conference at a hotel in Bloomsbury, London, spending the day discussing and voting on the proposed aims and constitution of the new party.
There were many differing views and a great many votes on them, with some constitutional tangles that both the chair and the members attending found confusing, but which were eventually resolved. While there was unanimity on many major issues, a number of votes were hotly contested, and counting the votes from the cards held up gave the tellers plenty of work during the sessions.
There was also a secret ballot over the exact name of the new party, and although there was strong support for some alternatives, 'Left Unity' emerged as the winner.
This was a meeting to found the party, and to set up a basis on which to develop, and unlike other party conferences there were no long conferences speeches, with everyone keeping to the business of the day, speaking for or against the various constitutional proposals and amendments. I think the longest speech allowed was five minutes, and that had to deal with a number of complex matters, and most speakers were limited to two minutes.
Despite the at times tedious nature of the proceedings and voting, spirits seemed to be high, with considerable optimism about the future for the party. Recent opinion polls have shown a great deal of public support for some left-wing policies and the country seems to both want and need a real alternative to the current parties.
The left has always failed to gain support (and not just here in the UK) because of factional differences and splits, and it remains to be seen if 'Left Unity' can continue to unite the different groups. At the moment there seems to be considerable goodwill.
But even if Left Unity holds, it still faces the huge uphill task that our first past the post electoral system produces, and which has prevented the Green Party from making the breakthrough here that it has in some other European countries.