POLITICS

Labour MPs Complain Of Being 'Banned' From Party Conference Hall Floor

Party says not enough room due to record number of delegates.

24/09/2017 15:44 | Updated 25 September 2017
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Labour MPs and peers have reacted angrily after being ‘banned’ from the floor of the party’s annual conference.

Several Parliamentarians told HuffPost UK of their surprise at being ordered to sit in the balcony at the Brighton Centre.

A party spokesman insisted that the move stemmed from a sheer lack of space after a record number of delegates were accredited for the conference.

More than 1,200 local party members are in Brighton – nearly three times the usual number - and a further 300 union affiliates.

As part of Jeremy Corbyn’s drive to give more time to party members, several shadow Cabinet ministers, as well as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, have already been forced to sacrifice speaking slots to make way for the rank and file.

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The Brighton conference hall.

MPs, MSPs, Welsh Assembly members and members of the Lords have for years been allowed to take party in conference proceedings in the main hall thanks to their ‘ex-officio’ status.

One MP told HuffPostUK: “We’re being told to go up to the balcony. Some are considering asking for a discount as they’ve paid £160 for an ex-officio floor pass

“Apparently, if you want to speak you have to wave from up there.”

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Former Chancellor Denis Healey.

A former shadow minister said that the situation was reminiscent of when Denis Healey, as Chancellor, was forced to wave a piece of paper demanding to speak at the party conference in Blackpool in the 1970s.

“At least Healey got to wave from the floor,” the ex-shadow minister said.

Heckled by leftwingers, Healey went on to deliver a speech in which he vowed to undertake spending cuts to secure emergency funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Another MP added: “We’re confined to the balcony area above the floor this year.” Yet another said: “It feels like we’ve been banned from our own conference”.

One peer was turned away from the conference hall when they showed their security pass and it was deemed ineligible.

Party sources told HuffPost UK that there would be a system in place to allow MPs to take part in debates, as long as they sent a message from the balcony to stewards and then on to the conference chair.

A live video screen would enable the chair of conference to know who wanted to speak.

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