I received an email from Welsh Labour, excitedly informing Labour Party members of the upcoming Welsh Labour Party conference 28-30 March. As it is being held in N Wales, not too far from my home I set about making plans to attend.
Being Working Poor means I have a careful list of priorities over what the household budget is spent on, but I reasoned if I was careful, a pre-packed lunch each day, money for the 30 mile train journey and enough for the odd cup of coffee, I would be able to participate and hear what the Labour hierarchy in Wales are planning for the coming year and their priorities for Wales itself. My husband said he would go too, as he has not experienced a conference event previously.
I followed the click through to book the pass needed for the 2 day event, and to see where the Gala Dinner was being held and at what price. My enthusiasm for both was quickly dampened. To my dismay and anger a 2 day pass to attend conference is £45 per person. A ticket to the Gala Dinner is £63. If my husband and I wanted to attend both, it would set us back £216 plus travel.
I understand the Gala Dinner is a fundraising event but £63 a ticket? How is that justifiable for the rank and file Labour Party members? And more upsetting is that in order to participate and hear speeches from my own party, it will cost me £45 for the privilege. Ed, at these events you will be echoing around the venue to people who can afford to listen to you, not the very people you have been speaking about recently : the working poor, the people for whom the Cost Of Cameron as you put it, is far too high a price to pay! Do you want to listen to the middle class party faithful, or do you want my voice to be heard in the hall asking questions that affect my daily living and those in my community? As leader of the Labour Party I want you to hear about the overwhelming rise of zero hours contract agency hired staff that proliferate throughout Wales. I want you to to hear of how few full time jobs there are for the towns in the coastal communities who are seeing such large numbers of seasonally employed people who then get laid off for 4 or more months each year. I want you to listen to how the rural communities in Wales, which are many, are severely hit by diesel and petrol costs, where village bus services, post offices are being axed daily. I want you to be aware and act on the large numbers of Welsh tenants hit by the bedroom tax, and acknowledge at least that with Wales having the highest number of disabled and sick people out of the home nations, Capita assessments are NOT the answer.
At the gala dinner at £63 per ticket you will be seated with the First minister and all the AM's and the middle class socialists and businessmen who can afford to attend. Wouldn't it be better if you were able to chat at dinner with someone who is desperately looking for work, an NHS worker or two, a mum having to turn to Foodbanks to feed her family? For that is the way Ed you will learn what is going on, both in Wales and throughout England and Scotland and adjust Labour policy accordingly.
For an unemployed person to gain access to the Welsh conference is two thirds of their unemployment weekly benefit amount. It is more than shameful that Labour Party members need significant means to hear what the plans are for the party and to participate in their party's politics.
My simple message to Ed Miliband is : Don't price me and other Labour Party members out of our own party. Listen to the voices of the working class, and poor, alongside the middle classes to gain an accurate view of what shape and direction the Labour Party need to be travelling in. And invite some of us to participate in the conference for free and perhaps attend that Gala Dinner at a reasonable cost. You may learn something beneficial to power you to victory in 2015. Never forget the Labour Party's name. Workers shape the Labour Party. Don't price them out.