On Monday 30th November 2015 John Bolt, SEA General Secretary and Sheila Dore, SEA Chair attended an official reception for the Labour Party Socialist Societies at the House of Commons.
It was hosted by Tom Watson, Deputy Labour leader. Not surprisingly in the circumstances there was much discussion of the current situation in the Party and its position on action in Syria. There was also much discussion amongst members of all Societies about changes required to make the process more democratic and the policy more reflective of the views of grassroots members, CLPs and Socialist Societies in particular.
Tom Watson arrived late (understandably) having come straight from a somewhat contentious meeting of the PLP. He gave a brief but effective speech about his commitment to exploring ways to make the Party more democratic and accountable. He expressed respectful recognition of the expertise and political activism represented by the Socialist Societies.
Tom then took questions from the floor; some related to current disagreements within the Party and others related to the particular interests of individual Soc Socs. John Bolt made it clear to Tom that the SEA represented a great deal of expertise on education and that John himself had worked closely over a period of time with Kevin Brennan, former shadow schools minister. He regretted however that this had been on an ad hoc basis and urged Tom to establish formal channels through which the SEA and the shadow education team could work together.
Sheila Dore reminded Tom that at present Soc Socs only had 3 representatives in total on the National Policy Forum. She urged Tom to argue that each Socialist Society should have representation on the NPF and that each policy commission should include a Soc Soc member who could contribute to policy debates and ultimately to the manifesto. Tom Watson agreed to raise the matter with Angela Eagle, Chair of the NPF.
Finally John Bolt agreed with the new Chair of the Socialist Societies, Catherine Atkinson from the Society of Labour Lawyers, that there would be a meeting with himself and officers of the SEA to explore ways in which the SEA can increase its influence over Party policy. And in pursuit of that objective a meeting of the SEA Parliamentary group with Lucy Powell MP has been arranged for Tuesday 15th December 2015.