Friday, 20 June 2003

It's been a good day this week

UNISON Conference 2003: It's been a good day this week. Wednesday saw the best of Conference with a real debate on the political funds. But after that, it did get a wee bit shaky.

However, the passion of Stephen Lewis' contribution as UN special envoy on HIV/AIDS will live with many of us for a long time.

As usual Scotland played a major part in all the big debates. Jane Carolan, Mike Kirby and Pat Rowland to name just a few. Karie Murphy and David Connor played major roles on opposite sides of the political fund debate.

The political fund debate was on object lesson on how important organisation is. When Conference takes control itself things go much better.

Dave Prentis has fair risen to the gen sec role as he laid down important pointers for our future and most important of all, laid down our uncompromising fight against racism.

As the country's biggest union, we have taken the lead in setting the public service agenda. We have lots to be proud of over the last 10 years. Not least should be the pride in merging three cultures into a new progressive union. That took perseverance, patience, organisation and trust - but it could not have been achieved without the goodwill and commitment of activists.

Now we've set the public services agenda, we need to set the political agenda. There was a clear signal from the leadership that this is exactly what we are going to do.

We have so much untapped influence in the Labour Party. Hopefully the call for us to get involved locally and push for UNISON's policies in the party, will see that influence bring results.

This is my 20th conference. They always infuriate me, they always surprise me, they always bore me, they always excite me. They always give me hangovers. If you are a new delegate, I bet you recognise all of these.

But they also offer the opportunity to meet fellow activists from around the country - and around the world - to listen, to learn, to debate, and most of all to organise. Conference is not a spectator sport, it needs us to organise and take responsibility for it - that's when it works best.

This conference, despite the light agenda, despite the usual political posturing and despite the occasional rogue decision, does seem to have reflected a union with a new confidence, a new self-assurance that will make the year ahead fascinating - or am I just an old romantic?

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