05
Oct
09

Labour Conference 2009′


Labour Conference, the fringe, our opposition and Michael Crick…

The Fox in Parliament team was at Labour Conference to expand on our campaign and continue to raise awareness for us and the issue of protecting Labour Conference 2009 the hunting ban. It’s fair to say we do not have to lobby too hard about the merits of our campaign or its need at Labour Conference. The vast bulk of Labour Party members, supporters MPs, MEPs and Ministers know the importance of why the hunting ban must remain.

It is after all Labour which introduced the hunting ban and it is only Labour which can protect it from being repealed. That said as with any issue and campaign you never take support for granted. Our mission in being at conference was to encourage more MPs and Ministers to speak out on the issue and to join with us in doing so. We are glad to report we were successful in our aims and the trip was very productive.

Conference 2009 Brighton PierConference remains the best place to lobby people you need to get in contact with; it helps create the relaxed atmosphere that makes for more informed talk.  In the case of Labour Conference everyone is equal so regardless of whether you’re a member, an official, an MP or a Minister you all mingle in the same locations and go to the same events. It is this informality that makes our work and those of other animal campaigns more productive.

Some of the other big animal campaigns have gone on to lobby at the Tory Party conference, we are glad we have no need to be there, for it would serve no purpose for our campaign.

Many of the Tory members who attend will be opposed to the hunting ban being repealed, but it is not they who call the shots at the Tory Party as that direction is laid out by David Cameron and his Parliamentary Party. Cameron’s obsession with bringing back extreme animal cruelty is only matched by how little regard he shows to democracy.Brighton

So that’s the Tories. What about Labour? Many of the public do not know the number of animal campaigns that attend conference or the events that take place.  Here is a list of the ones I was aware of, there could have been more….

Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) Respect for Animals, Animal Defenders International (ADI) Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) Animal Protection Agency (APA) Labour Animal Welfare Society (LAWS)

Each will be campaigning on their main subjects but each has something in common and that is they all see the importance that Labour Conference can offer them in terms of awareness and the potential contacts that could be made. Conference is more than just a chance to meet past friends and to share a meal it is the fabric that binds politics together. It’s fair to say more can be achieved in lobbying at Conference then months of work in trying to get in contact with one person.

The Fringes….

This conference like many before it had a range of fringe events to take forward the issues of animal welfare and all were well attended by delegates and others across the Labour Party.

The RSPCA held their annual Beer and Curry Night; this is a good chance for the RSPCA team and inspectors to explain their work and the importance of their latest campaign. This year it was about Quash the Squash, a campaign to insure the EU meets its agreements in protecting the welfare of chickens reared in Europe. Labour’s Angela Smith, MP for Basildon was the guest speaker. Angela also commented on David Cameron’s pledge to scrap the hunting ban on a free vote.

Labour Animal Welfare Society hosted ‘Labour must win for the animals debate’ a cross section of speakers included, Labour’s Ian Cawsey MP and Angela Smith MP along with Douglas Batchelor (League Against Cruel Sports). Minister for animal welfare Jim Fitzpatrick was also in attendance…

The debate is always an open question session on all things animal welfare. Circuses came up many times as did vivisection and the need for Labour to do more in this area and of course hunting with dogs and the risks Cameron poses to our wildlife.  The debate was lively and frank questions were asked and frank replies were given. For reference, this event is always held outside the security perimeter of Conference, so is open to all animal supporters to attend.

Finally we have the Vote Cruelty Free Fringe.

This event was held by an amalgamation of animal campaigns including League Against Cruel Sports, Compassion in World Farming, International Fund for Animal Welfare, British Union for Abolition of Vivisection and Respect for Animals.

The layout for this event was new, each table would relate to one of the five topics from each campaign; on each table was the head of that campaign or Outside the Grand Hotelrepresentative. I chose as you may expect the hunting topic. I was joined on the table by some Parliamentary Candidates and David Lepper MP. Others on the table included Chris Gale. Douglas Batchelor led for LACS at this section. The debate centred around three topic questions, the first one being ‘Why do you think support is so high for the hunting ban?’ I won’t list all my answers to the three questions here, but will do if requested.

Needless to say the debate was good. We were also joined on the table by Jim Fitzpatrick Labour’s Animal Welfare Minister as well as Ian Cawsey MP, they took an overview for the debates for each table and presented aspects of the talks at the end.

A little point here, can any of you imagine there being a Conservative Animal Welfare Minister? Again this is the type of bold step that Labour introduced and does well. For it would be odd if the Tories introduced such a role, for how could you have an animal welfare minister who would support hunting with dogs?

The sad face of the hunting lobby…..

Empty Countryside Alliance standEach Conference for as long as I can recall, the Countryside Alliance has paid to have a stand at Labour Conference, now this is not an indication of support, far from it all commercial and campaign organizations can have a stand in the exhibition if they are able to afford it. Stands the size of the CA’s do not come cheap at least £10.000; so if they are daft enough to spend the money, you can’t blame Labour for using it to campaign against their pals the Conservative Party.

In recent years the CA stand often had a bosom buddy not far away with the so-called ‘Middle Way Approach’, this stupid notion that you could ever regulate cruelty was the hunting lobby’s last gasp before the ban came in. To them it was their worst fallback position, one they hated but could live with if it stopped the hunting ban. The campaign was run by silly people who pretended it would not be as cruel. The Lib Dem’s Lembit Opic was a key player as was the disrespected Baroness Ann Mallaliue, the Labour Peer who spoke for next to nobody in Labour.

She also helped set up and chair the abysmal failure that was Leave Country Sports Alone campaign. The Tories involved were to numerous to single out. Yet there was one other person who did the donkey work. Jim Barrington, the so-called finder of the light who went from being the chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports to the main spokesperson and apologist for the hunting lobby. Just like when he was doing the Middle Way Group stands, his funding to pay for things was never that far removed from the hunting lobby, despite what they claimed.

As so it still is, for guess who still turns up to run the Countryside Alliance stand, yep Jim Barrington. It seems despite him being one of the worst lobbyists at Conference the CA will not exchange him for somebody else. They we are sure still think there is some mileage out of him crossing over from LACS. Well no, for people are against hunting because they know it’s wrong and no matter how many people are paid to tell them different it will not change the public’s views in being against.

So each year they trot out Mr. Barrington to stand around and do nothing, because next to nobody will speak with the Countryside Alliance, savvy Labour members and visitors to conference know that the hunting lobby is not the countryside and it is not they who speak for real rural people. So instead this rather bored man and a couple of helpers sit around counting the stripes on the carpet.

What a shame……..NOT…….

Michael Crick

There are many aspects of conference we could discuss and add to, but wePlenty of fighting spirit here Mr Crick wanted to highlight something that appears to be the norm with some journalists in how they carry out their reporting. Now this is off topic but it has relevance in how news stories are reported and created.

I have chosen Michael Crick due to the way he was doing a report outside the one of the main hotels for Conference. It was Wednesday night, the last night of Conference. It was late and apart from Mr. Crick, his film crew and a few police officers I was the only person walking through that area at that time.

Mr. Crick was doing his piece to camera, however the picture he painted of Conference and of delegates and members of the Labour Party bore no resemblance to reality. To camera he was implying that Labour members and others where so disillusioned and low in morale that they could not wait to get away from conference. He indicated that behind him the conference hotel was empty and therefore this backed up his view.

Wrong…..there were in fact many people around; just they were at the Hilton Metropole and not the Grand Hotel where he was filming outside. Many were attending the main receptions of that night of which the largest was being held by Unite. Others like me had left to attend the Labour Students Night or were having restaurant meals in Brighton which was outside of the Conference perimeter.

Whatever Mr. Crick thought he was doing he was not being accurate with his report and serves as yet another reason why the media – including political editors of BBC News Night -should not always be believed on face value.

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