Friday, 20 June 2008

Bounemouth Over and Out

*Warning this post may contain politics*

Well conference is finally over, and I for one feel exhausted and a little sad. Our annual gathering of the clan is such a great opportunity to meet so many good people and friends from all over the country, and for me speaking for the first time it is a conference I shall remember if not for the fact that my dodgy knee is now permanently locked into a squashed seating position.

The last day of conference turned out to be the most tense and exciting (I entirely understand that to all you non Trade Union muggles this is a version of exciting alien to you) I was hoping to speak on Motion 6, Making LGBT equality a reality. However it just missed out on making the agenda. It was a shame that conference missed out on my searing indictment of the treatment of Trans People ( not to be confused with Pan's People, ToTP fans!), with some biting political satire, steamy tales of sexual encounters and a song to finish (or it might just have been me droning on for 3 minutes, we will never know) The reason for my motion being timed out was the by then infamous Motion 63. All week there were huddles in corners over Motion 63, while some attempted to get it prioritised and others it wouldn't. Motion 63 called for a year long review of Unison's affiliation to the Labour Party. Now I am certainly no fan of the current "Tory Light" New Labour government, but the labour party was built by the trade unions and its not time to desert it, but reclaim it. It is after all still our party. Anyway it made for a thrilling last session, where the Union's big hitters slugged it out from the Rostrum. In the end it went to a card vote and the National Executive Council won the day day by 60,000 votes. The upshot was that the motion I wanted to speak upon was timed out.

I always have a touch of withdrawal when conference is over. For that one week we take over a town and nearly everyone you bump into, you know they share your values and beliefs. I genuinely know I am amongst friends. After I had spoken at the rostrum, people would stop me with a cheery "liked your speech" etc. Suddenly strangers knew my name. Home again I am already missing much from my week away. I miss the camaraderie. I miss those passionate speakers. Those Conference superstars, who in day jobs are just average hard working trade unionists, but give them a podium and 3,000 speakers hold an audience with every bit as much attention as the greatest politicians. There are those speakers, who as soon as they rise to to rostrum an expectant murmmer fills to hall. The most infamous is Glenn. A greying firebrand branch sec from London, who has the flat vowels and strident delivery of a preacher, peppered with a spiky humour and well targetted argument. I may not share all of his politics, but I will always listen. There are other, sometimes once only speakers who can take your breath away with their personal stories. This year we had a debate on Gun and Knife crime and a couple of speakers held the hall in spellbound tears as they related personal stories of grief. I miss the quirky customs of our conferences. The endless detailed questioning of Cletus, the phlegmatic chair of the Standing Orders Committee, who after a week of the usual intense cross examination and criticism rises on the last session to shamelessly murder a version of a popular song. This year he had the whole room in hysterics with this version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab", complete with a chorus "They tried to make me go to Bromley, I said no, no, no". Well it means more to us I guess. The thing I miss most of all though, is just the people of my Union.
I'm back home now and back to reality. What a shame.

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