Saturday 19 September saw Stop the War Coalition’s Annual National Conference at ULU in London. Attended by over two-hundred members and delegates from across the UK the lively conference was notable for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition means that he can no longer serve as the Chair of Stop the War. Unfortunately, Jeremy could not attend the conference due to his busy schedule but he did send a message of solidarity to the conference in which he made his commitment to organisation clear and stated that Stop the War ‘represents the very best in British political campaigning’.
He continued by saying that his ‘amazing campaign over this summer owes something to the spirit and struggles of Stop the War since 2001’. Finally, he concluded by wishing his successor, and predecessor, Andrew Murray, well in his position as Chair.
Andrew opened the conference with a short introduction informing the hall that he was proud to take over from Jeremy and reaffirming the fact that Jeremy’s success is a massive boost for the anti-war movement - not just in Britain but across the globe.
Lindsey German backed up his statement by calling for Stop the War to harness the exhilarating energy of the current political climate to advance the aims of the movement and attract a new generation of people. Vice-chair, Chris Nineham, then delivered a rousing call to arms in which he stressed the need for an increase in activity of the back of Corbyn’s victory.
Contributions from the floor pointed to a surge in both interest and support for Stop the War across the country. Local groups such as Lewisham and Birmingham reported renewed interest from former members as well as a large number of new enquiries. Following the huge rise in Labour Party membership in the past few weeks the possibility of utilising local Labour meetings to promote Stop the War events and membership was raised a number of times.
It was also widely felt that building the campaign against the bombing of Syria was an ideal opportunity to expand the movement. It was made clear that widespread public pressure and a strong campaign will not only be effective at preventing military intervention but would also provide a massive boost to Jeremy’s leadership.
The Conservative government’s disturbing Prevent strategy featured heavily throughout the day. Alex Kenny from the NUT spoke in our Student and Young People’s meeting to inform the conference of the intense pressure teachers and their students are under as a result of Prevent. He also emphasised the fact that this was not just the cast in inner city areas like Tower Hamlets, where he teaches, but right across the UK.
Shelly Asquith (NUS Vice President), Shadia Edwards-Dhasti (STW Student Rep) and Johnathan Maunders (Oxford Brookes STW) also voiced strong concerns over an increase in Islamophobia at universities and amongst young people generally. A lively meeting was concluded with a resolution to establish a Young People’s Assembly and will be set up in due course.
Overall, a feeling of optimism and renewed energy characterised a successful conference. Now onto the many campaigns that await.