I arrived on Saturday 23rd September 2017 and booked into the Kings Hotel Brighton not knowing what to expect from the next four days, within an hour I had received a phone call from one of my former FBU officials saying ‘what you up to tonight Trevor? I have a mate that is showing a film on the struggle of Palestinian Firefighters,’ that sounded interesting, so off I went to this fringe meeting and met up with Jim Malone a Scottish Firefighter that had been to Palestine and had seen first-hand the conditions that Firefighters had to work under he was also involved with the making of the film.
The film was some sixty minutes long, I can only say that I was so engrossed that it seemed like ten minutes, the film starts with Jim being introduced to the Palestine Firefighters and inspecting their equipment, only to find that they have a fire engine with some 250,000 miles on it, hardly any personal protection equipment, it later transpired that Jim through the Scottish FBU had donated some firefighting kit, which was withheld by the Israeli government for six months because the FF helmets could have been used for protection by soldiers, if you are not aware; the Israelis have an embargo around Palestine.
They interviewed the Palestinian Firefighters, one who had taken a bullet to the shoulder from an Israeli soldier whilst on duty, the most annoying thing is that Firefighters all over the world only want to serve, protect, and maintain life, they have no political, religious, or racial agenda, this proved to be the case when they interviewed Israeli Firefighters at a later stage of the film.
This was a great introduction to my first fringe meeting at conference, I attended many more fringe meetings with doctors, nurses, teachers, Blue Labour, Hope not Hate, and of course Fire Brigade Union meetings.
On the first day of conference with a thirst for knowledge and a little bit of trepidation, I walked the half mile down the sea front to the conference centre, being handed more and more information leaflets the closer I got. Most of these leaflets contained interesting information, they also informed me of times and places of the fringe meetings for that evening.
As I walked through the first set of security you could feel a buzz of excitement, which grew to a crescendo once inside the centre itself, as I walked round all the exhibitor’s stands, bearing in mind the fringe meeting I had attended the night before, I found it rather ironic that the Palestine solidarity campaign stand was directly behind the friends of Israel stand, separated by a dividing wall.
So, time to take my seat in the balcony for the opening speeches, only to be told conference we have a delayed start due to the number of people and delegates attending, after a thirty-minute delay the leader of our party entered and lead his cabinet onto the stage they received rapturous applause and chants of ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’ that went on for some time, conference was called to order and Harry Donaldson took to the lectern and gave the CAC report (Conference Arrangement Committee. A CAC report is produced every day and available for free which sets out daily business and times of speeches or you can use a phone app) This was followed by a minutes silence for all those that had lost their life’s or been affected by the tragic events in London, Manchester and other parts of the UK, respect was also shown for former colleagues that had passed.
The speeches that followed over all the days, were inspiring such positive messages of hope, pride, and dignity, building a anti austerity program, having a sense of belonging to our country, renewable energy and bye, bye to Zero hours contracts, a proper living wage, the list goes on.
If I had to have a gripe about anything it is that I paid some £170 for a balcony seat for the duration of the conference, which does not entitle me to be present for the Leaders speech, on that note I would like to thank Matt Wrack from the FBU for obtaining a ticket for myself and Sam Tarry for his help.
To finish on a lighter note, I found it absolutely hilarious to watch the delegates on the conference floor with parrots on their heads, all kinds of flora and fauna and much more, trying to attract attention so they could be chosen to address conference. This process needs to change in my opinion.
One address that really stuck with me was a lady Jewish by birth, who spoke so eloquently about the Israeli/Palestine situation, stating that “if things are wrong they are wrong, we have to have open conversations.” She concluded with; “I believe that what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people is wrong, as I am Jewish you cannot call me I am an anti-Semite. We need to have this conversation.”
I cannot finish without reference to JC speech, and no JC is not Jemma Collins from TOWIE. An all-encompassing, all inspiring speech without a cough or P45 in sight, the unity amongst delegates a seemingly harmonious government in waiting with a very strong message:
FOR THE MANY NOT THE FEW
What have I taken from conference? Everything. We need to be open and honest, and have those difficult conversations. We are a party on the rise connecting with many, some 400,000 new members, let’s not let infighting destroy what we have achieved in such a short space of time under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Trevor Mckeever – TULO Officer for Dagenham and Rainham CLP
Prospective Labour Council Candidate for South Hornchurch Ward