You need to be in the conference room for the debates (and votes). It runs from Sunday through to Wednesday lunch and ends with the Leader’s speech. It is likely that Woman’s Conference will be on the preceding Saturday. The most important task is to represent your members by voting on motions, rule changes, reports from the NEC, Officers and the National Policy Forum and in elections because some elections are still conducted at conference. Since a delegation is responsible for representing the organisation that sent it, it is expected that the delegation should vote together although the card vote is broken into fractions and each delegate votes their fraction.

The motions submitted are grouped into topics by the Conference Arrangements Committee, or ruled out of order and the topics to be debated are voted on by the delegates with four topics chosen by Union & Affiliate delegates and four topics chosen by the CLP delegates. Each morning the CAC will report on their deliberations and on the agenda for the rest of the week, and this report can be amended or rejected.

CAC Reports are delivered by email to delegates once ready. They are usually also distributed in hard copy format at the doors of the conference centre.

The 1st morning’s CAC report is usually the most important as organisations that are dissatisfied with the CACs rulings try to get them amended.  These will usually be that a motion or rule change submitted has been ruled out of order, for instance in 2016, all motions on the economy and austerity were ruled out of order on the grounds they weren’t contemporary because the economy had been considered by the National Policy Forum.

Most votes will be taken by show of hands, card votes are taken for rule changes and otherwise on the Chair’s discretion. (if you leave the conference floor, you should leave the card vote on the floor with a member of your delegation that you trust). In 2016, all the votes were scheduled for the end of session, and all the motions were carried overwhelmingly; card votes were only taken for the rule changes; they were contested but the reason is so that the vote is recorded.

You will be given advice by the factions, CLPD publish a daily bulletin known as “Yellow Pages” for some reason, presumably apart from it’s yellow paper. Labour First also publish a daily bulletin. Reading them both will give you a good view as to what the crunch points.

There is a Conference Guide which is available as a phone app. This is really good, I suggest you use them both. The integration with your personal calendar hasn’t been fantastic but it does have bookmarks and a schedule planner. It covers both the Exhibition and the Fringe, but one needs to be careful as some fringe events, including “The World Transformed” do not advertise in the Conference Guide. TWT has its own guide but you may need to research others more carefully. It’s definitely worth attending the fringe, if nothing else you are more likely to be able to speak.

Delegates are also given the opportunity to attend Policy Forums, with members of the Shadow Cabinet, the topics of these seem to be chosen by the front bench teams, which can be a refreshing change; I remember in 2016 spending 30 minutes discussing prison policy and reform, which I didn’t expect to.

If the CLP has submitted a motion that is included in one of the winning topics there will be a composite meeting which decides which words will be debates. I have written about my experience of these in this blog article here. The composite meetings also choose who moves and seconds the motion so is one way to guarantee that you get to speak. (These are procedurally vicious; it’s important to choose someone tough and knowledgeable, to be well prepared and to try and know who else is going.)

Of course, one can try and speak. Speakers apart from the movers and seconders are chosen by “attracting the chair’s eye”. We have the bizarre spectacle of people trying to attract attention by waving items of clothing, stuffed toys and one case in 2014, a baby. This is very unsatisfactory and may be changed this year. I hope that the habit of writing a speech and tuning it for the topic so that one can apply to speak in all the debates dies a death. The chair of course tries to achieve a gender balance when choosing the speakers.

Now that our delegation is larger, the pressure on each of our delegates to be on the floor the whole time is reduced, so here’s some advice. Don’t push yourself but don’t take the piss, probably best to travel up the day before, use Taxis when appropriate, plan your meals, the Liverpool conference centre is large and distant from the main road and bus-stops, it can’t feed all the conference attendees, the café space is too small and the queues can be off putting. Plan your mobile battery use, getting a recharge in the conference centre is not easy. The Hitachi Business Centre (in the exhibition hall) usually has lockable recharging facilities. Some fringe events, especially The World Transformed run concurrently with Conference, there is no reason why you shouldn’t attend some of these.

Disabled Delegates may appoint people to help them; these helpers have conference floor passes.

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?
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