As a party conference first timer, a non-party member, and someone who thinks about politics but steers clear of getting involved, it was an intriguing sight to watch around 60 party faithful turn up at the PUP conference in the Stormont Hotel. New party badges being worn; more ties than the average church service; four men for every woman; young couples as well as older men.
Party President Councillor Hugh Smyth kicked off the morning with his opening reflections. He noted that in olden days, if republicans said something or , then he wouldn’t believe it or support it. Now that’s not the case. He cautioned that the same can be true of the DUP. In his view, Peter Robinson was playing a “good game” and shouldn’t be written off.
Despite their socialist links, he’ll be glad to see the Labour Party out of power.
“Blair bled us, abused us and when we were no more use, he left us.”
For the Conservative party, he had a shopping list. While cuts were inevitable, they shouldn’t be focussed on the poor. Declaring a personal interest, he wants free television licences for all pensioners. He supports a pro-choice agenda - that’s pro-choice on retirement. The retirement age should remain at 65 and not rise. But in parallel, companies shouldn’t be allowed to force employees to retire at 65. It’s up to the individual.
Finally, after equating the House of Lords with a House of Sleep, he called the party to be prepared for the possibility of Assembly elections earlier than 2011, and to get behind their leader Dawn Purvis.
Darren Logan introduced a resolution challenging racism in protestant areas.
“We should challenge racism, and challenge yourself”
“We were vilified as a community, so it’s only right that we support people coming into our community.”
“Loyalist or racist - you can’t be both.”
The rest of the day will ask conference to adopt a policy that would encourage the creation of local social enterprise and economic cooperatives, attempt to reverse the party’s pro-choice policy on the introduction of the 1967 Abortion act (it failed) before looking at youth offending, social justice, education, finishing with an address by Denis Bradley and then Dawn Purvis’ party leader’s speech.