Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Conference Fireworks in 1945

History series continues...with a report of what went on at the Easter 1945 Co-op Party Conference in Scarborough, attended by 730 delegates (a record number) when individual membership of the party is quoted at approximately 20,000. What follows reads like familiar arguments for anyone who has ever been to a political party conference. Unless otherwise stated the speakers are from Manchester & Salford Co-operative Society....

Opening speech by A.V. Alexander, the Co-operative / Labour MP (Sheffield Hillsborough) in Churchill's wartime cabinet. That's the man in the hat shaking hands with the Blackburn Rovers team at the 1940 Wartime Cup Final. They lost 0-1 to West Ham United.

Alfred Barnes MP (East Ham South) announces "the resolution on the calling of a conference of all working-class organisations to fight the next elections. The air was tense when our President, Mrs. Jones, took her stand on the rostrum to second the resolution for the calling of a conference to organise on a national basis, as we had organised in Manchester, all the sections of the working class comprising the Labour and Co-operative Parties and the Trade Unions in a Council of Labour. There was much support for the resolution from the floor, but the National Committee led by Mr. Barnes was having none of it, as they insisted that we would foul of the Labour Party, particularly if we invited the Communist Party. A show of cards disclosed that the resolution had been lost."

"the resolution on the affiliation to the Labour Party was taken after lunch on Sunday afternoon. Royal Arsenal Society led the fight, but one felt that the onslaught of the National Committee, who were opposed to the resolution long before the Conference. Our Mrs. Sheldon ably stated our case and Mr. Meachin, Blackpool, gave the National Committee a terrific broadside. The discussion was not without its humorous side, a rather elderly delegate from Long Eaton had the idea that the resolution entitled him to give a long discussion about his father-in-law, until our Mr. Starkey interjected with the remark, 'I'll have to ask me dad.' The Conference roared with laughter and it did not subside until Mr. Barnes rang the delegate off. Mr. Barnes was at his best. He made the most of his case and and he marshalled his words to be advantage. As expected the mover of the resolution in his reply could not break down the barrage from Mr. Barnes and the result of the card vote was : 1,247,000 for the affiliation, 5,488,000 against."

From M&S Co-op Society Co-operative Party report - Co-operative Herald May 1945