Because the B&B the Somerset Health delegation is staying in is in Hove (about a mile from the Brighton Centre) and the weather's been nice, that's meant a stroll along the front to Conference each morning. Just before you get to the conference centre itself there's a building that I have been mentally trying to avoid, that's the Grand Hotel. For two different reasons, I had to confront that building today. Bear with me, this is to do with UNISON NDC.
I still remember the morning of the Brighton Bombing which took down the front of the Grand. It was during the Miners Strike of 1984-85 and I was 12 years old, just started at Bellemoor School. Despite the fact I was in the soft and pampered south, I already knew all about Thatcher's treatment of the striking miners, her police terrorising the mining communities. I was already a socialist - or rather an anti-Tory. I'll be honest though ashamed by it, I was happy to hear of the bomb, and remember the crushing disappointment that Thatcher had managed to survive. It seemed less an IRA thing and more a smite from God (I was still a believer in God then) which Thatcher, being clearly evil had managed to escape from.
Now, this week, whenever I've gone past, I have tried to avoid looking at the hotel, partly ashamed at what my 12 year old self thought, partly because a little bit of me still thinks that way. I wouldn't wish pain or death on anyone, but if anything bad happened to Thatcher, it still wouldn't balance the scales for everything that she inflicted to everyone else.
But even I wouldn't say I was hoping to celebrate Thatcher's death, at least I hope that I wouldn't celebrate it when it happens. I'm content to know that she can't hurt anyone else again. However for Bob Oram to express his disappointment that Thatcher's not dead on the floor of conference was too far. My reaction was equal parts shock, pleasure and a feeling of "this is so not the place to say that" and there was actually a chant of Off, Off, Off toward Bob. Don't get me wrong, Thatcher is evil, I still believe that and any suggestion that she gets a state funeral is profoundly disrespectful of her victims but to wish someone dead goes beyond the pale, even more so in that it was part of a speech on learning and organising. I have no idea what Bob wanted to achieve by it and it just wasn't the right place, Sue Orwin's already written up a piece critical of him in tomorrow morning's regional newsletter.
Despite that excitement the Learning and Organising motion was passed along with Ovarian Cancer awareness, a motion for establishment of good Domestic Violence policies in the workplace and an interesting motion on Fuel Poverty. Then it was off to the Grand for the Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) meeting.
I'd never gone there before and to be honest, it's too posh for me to feel comfortable in even disregarding it's past. The TUFI had promised a buffet, though I did not want to partake (feeling it was inappropriate as I knew I wouldn't agree with them) I was weak enough to eat the food that Jan collected for me. Note to TUFI, when I go to unofficial fringe events it's normally no food, no drink and a request/demand for a donation towards room hire. I don't feel at home if I'm being pampered.
The debate provoked at times more heat than light at times, though I did manage to get a question in. Terry McCorran had suggested that the composite gave support to Hamas which as he rightly pointed out is a fascist organisation. I take the view that the composite condemns Hamas and I don't care for being labeled a Hamas apologist because I support the composite. My position's close to the Alliance for Workers' Liberty but unlike them I am slightly on the composite's side. More tomorrow on that.
In the afternoon there was a debate on an amendment to call for the nationalisation of all banks without compensation. That led to some rousing speeches but the amendment was lost. A couple of motions on promoting use of the DDA were passed and we finished off with a climate change debate.
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