Labour Women’s Conference needs to hear from women’s voices


“The elected members agreed unanimously to have six policy debates rather than four, in order to give more women the chance to have their voices heard at a Conference reduced from two days to one.”

Jean Crocker, Vice-chair of Labour’s Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) reports (in a personal capacity) on the build-up to Women’s Conference. 

Labour’s Women’s CAC met at the end of July to discuss arrangements for Women’s Conference, which takes place immediately prior to Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool on 7 October.

It has been a frustrating build-up – more details are in my previous report, available on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy website. We wanted to see a standalone, two-day Spring Women’s Conference that would really enable women to get together and have their say. But the NEC decided differently, so we are now focused on making the best of the one-day conference in October.

We had previously agreed we wanted certain elements in the Conference agenda, so Women’s CAC elected members met informally on Saturday 22 July and put together a proposed draft agenda which showed how they could be integrated. This included round table discussions for those who could come on Friday afternoon, as well as the Reception in the evening. For Saturday we proposed a networking breakfast, workshops, voting methods that would avoid the queues we had at Telford in 2019, and, for platform speakers, two ten-minute sessions plus slots at the Reception and the breakfast. This was sent on 23 July to those who usually attend Women’s CAC.

A formal Women’s CAC meeting was originally planned for the next day in the afternoon, but we were informed in the morning that it was cancelled because of the reduced availability of staff after the by-elections and National Policy Forum meeting. It was rescheduled for Monday 31 July.

We were given a new agenda, rather than the one for the cancelled meeting, which several of us had contributed to. We were told that Women’s CAC had been going beyond our remit and needed to be ‘reset’. Extra staff would be brought in.

Women’s Conference agenda

We were informed that the roundtable discussions and the networking breakfast could not be held because of security considerations on the Friday and lack of early access to the venue on the Saturday. There would be communication with trade union comrades who had generously considered giving support for these events.

The elected members agreed unanimously to have six policy debates rather than four, in order to give more women the chance to have their voices heard at a Conference reduced from two days to one. It is a matter of rule that Women’s CAC decides the number of debates, so we are hopeful that these will be retained. We have not seen the final agenda.

Visitors to Women’s Conference

Women had been raising concerns with us about not being able to sign up as visitors to Women’s Conference, and needing to book travel and accommodation if they were coming. We asked for action to be taken. We were told that no passes had been issued so far, but information would be coming out. CLP secretaries and Women’s Officers were finally informed in mid-August that visitor tickets were available, with a deadline of 31 August.

Rules for motions

Unfortunately previous Party emails omitted the requirement that motions must have relevance to women. Women’s CAC members have been requesting for some months that an email should be sent out with the full list of requirements. Otherwise there is a risk of motions being found out of order, and so an opportunity lost for the voices of CLPs and women to be heard. This item was not on the new agenda, but I was able to raise it briefly under AOB. It would still be worth clarifying this issue ahead of the deadline of 12 noon on 14 September, and we continue to push for further advice to be sent out.

Other issues

Despite it only being a short meeting, we did our best to raise a number of issues to try to ensure the Conference is as democratic as possible and delegates have a good experience. We noted the need for Women’s CAC to have enough time to read the motions, and for delegates and visitors to have access to a quiet breakout room at Conference. There is going to be a Women’s CAC room as requested earlier in the year.

The WCAC Chair and Vice Chair requested a meeting in August, to deal with items we had not been able to discuss. It was indicated that these were beyond our remit. One item would have been for a reminder to the CAC for Annual Conference to keep a slot for two motions coming from Women’s Conference.

A post-meeting email set the date of the next meeting as 18 Sept, when we will need to discuss whether motions are in order, and agree groupings for the priorities ballot. The meeting is only timetabled for an hour so we must hope this is enough time to give proper consideration to submitted motions, but the dates have been changed, so we do at least have  a weekend to read them beforehand.

Visitors’ passes at Women’s Conference – deadline 31 August 2023.

Attendees at Women’s CAC have been pressing for invitations to go out to sign up for a Visitors’ Pass.  There is now a link to do so. The information has gone to CLP Chairs and Women’s Officers only.

Urgent – Deadline for Motions and Rule Changes to Women’s Conference – Deadline 12 Noon, Thursday 14 September 2023

Please note that motions have to be relevant to women. Emails have left this out, but the information on the Women’s Conference page on the website is correct. 

Keeping motions ‘in order’

It takes time and effort to get a motion submitted, and motions are the basis for the vibrant debates at Conference. But every year some are found ‘out of order’. Women’s CAC don’t make the rules, but we have to apply them, so we wanted to provide more information and enable more women’s voices to be heard. There is not yet an official version, but the following may be useful:

  1. Each motion will have a maximum of 250 words

All words are counted, except the title, so put any references, notes etc. in the body of the motion, and check the word count.  It isn’t worth putting extra information in the title, because when motions are composited, the words in the titles aren’t considered.

  1.   On one subject.

A motion should only address one issue, so that motions can be grouped into topic areas for the priorities ballot, and ultimately for debates on distinct policy areas at Women’s Conference

  1.   On a matter relevant to women.

For the best chance, include wording, even if brief, in the body of the motion to indicate why it is of relevance to women

  1.   Not considered by the WCAC as an organisational matter or constitutional amendment.

Focus on what the policy of the Labour Party should be, for example in a manifesto. Avoid anything to do with how the Labour Party is internally organised, such as what information the NEC should put out to members, having hybrid meetings etc., because under current guidance they will unfortunately have to be found out of order.

Featured Image: Conference hall at the Labour Party Conference 2016

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