The Labour Party conference this year was like one huge political iceberg.
The ten per cent that was visible was dominated by the passionate, football chant style support for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – as the architects of a Labour revival that had seen membership soar to 569,500. It did unveil new and radical policies.It suppressed a public row over Brexit which I notice Danny Finkelstein on The Times saw as shrewd politics, leaving divided Tories to take the flak. It contained a dispute about whether there was anti-Semitism among Left wingers despite the best efforts of Guido Fawkes ,the Daily Mail and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to stir the pot.
But under the eyes of the media ( who were given very restricted access to the conference hall) the hidden 90 per cent of the Labour conference was carrying out another revolution which will ensure that the current revival of political activism among the young has a long term future.
Contrary to what most Conservatives would like to think the 369,000 new party members who joined after Corbyn became leader are not all former card carrying members of the Social Workers Party, the Communist Party and other Left wing groupings. And they even applies to those who joined Momentum
Just on a micro political point, members of the local Labour Party in Berkhamsted and Tring in Hertfordshire have jumped from about 40 to 450 as a result of Corbyn.. If they were all committed former Communists, I think I would have noticed. Having lived in Berko since 1983, the town is not known for having Marxist banners festooned all over Berkhamsted station or the civic centre.
No the truth is – thanks to lack of any political or civic education in our schools – they have ideals, strong views but little hard knowledge of how to participate in a political democracy. Many may be savvy with social media but need to know how to use it for the benefit of the Labour Party.
There were sessions on door knocking, electoral law, what becoming a councillor is like. making Labour Party branch meetings more fun, championing equality, building up women’s forums, getting more disabled friendly meetings and how to use the traditional and social media to get your points across. There was also advice on how to tackle the problem of success, too many new members swamping local meetings.
Jeremy Corbyn has already transformed interest in politics by doubling the percentage of people involved in party membership in Britain. Now it looks as though Labour is going to get the new membership to engage in democracy. to help them win the next election. Even if only 10 per cent of the membership become fervent activists – that is still some 57,000 people – more than half the total Tory membership, I am told.
What is going to be interesting is when that hidden 90 per cent of the Labour iceberg hits the opposition at the next election. Will it be the sinking of the Tory Titanic or will the Tories try and steer well clear and come up with something new.