I have had a good week at Brighton – a guest house that has been a delight with attentive service from the owners, wonderful sunny weather, a chance to meet friends old and new, plus time for constructive work.
Labour Party Conference at Brighton always has the best attendance from London, partly because a lot of Labour Party members can come down by car or train for just a day or two. I met day trippers from Hounslow, Newham and Southwark during this week. Conversely next year in Manchester attendance from London will not be quite so good, whereas Scottish representation will be higher. That’s, of course, the advantage of taking Conference around the country.
Yet this rotation does not include all the potential venues, places with enough hotel accommodation and high level conference facilities. There is an obvious city that is discriminated against: London. I don’t just say that because I represent the greatest city in the world. Holding Labour Party Conference in London, probably at the Excel centre in East London, would have many benefits.
London wins hands down on environmental grounds, a matter of concern to the Labour Party on which the Labour Government has taken positive action.
London is the nation’s transport hub so it could be accessed far more easily than any of the current venues. It is within commuting distance for more than half the population of the country. Since London has the best transport links of any UK town or city, far fewer people would travel by car or plane. Also as the national media is based in London, there would be no need for them to travel, no extra payments for employees staying away from home, fewer hotel bills.
London’s transport system is often criticised, yet it has superb infrastructure and would cope easily with the influx of people arriving for Labour Party Conference – fewer than go to a match at Arsenal each week.
We’d still be a fair way away from having a carbon neutral Conference, but having it in London would be a big step in the right direction.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, London would be cheaper for many delegates. London, South East, and East Anglian delegates could commute on a daily basis. Many people from the Midlands and some from Wales and even as far away as Yorkshire could commute. A weekly season ticket would be cheaper than five nights’ accommodation in the vast majority of cases.
For women the ability to commute and still be able to be home in the evening for childcare, would be another valuable option and would help increase attendance.
There’s another plus though. Many, many more people have friends or family in or around London they could stay with. Few of us have family near Bournemouth for example. Probably half the population of the country know somebody they could stay with in London. London also has far more hotels than Labour’s traditional venues, so people would be spared the need to commute in as they did this week from Eastbourne, Seaford, Crawley and elsewhere.
We would also be in a better position to encourage extra visitors to attend the Conference. Many visitors, whether they be from charities, embassies or industry, come for only one day and try to pack in lots of meetings. Given that many organisations in both the public and private sectors have their headquarters in London, the Labour Party Conference may well receive more visitors. It would also be a lot easier for members of the public to come to the Conference should they so wish.
I must of course declare an interest. I am all in favour of holding Conference where I can pop there in half an hour on the Central Line. There are those who oppose more events in London. I ask them to argue why once every three or four years Labour should not have its annual conference in the city with the best green credentials – London.