Political conferences all have their own brands, and their own ideas to promote.
The very best will be designed to address fundamental and current questions of debate, key choices we need to make as a society and the principles guiding those choices.
For the Fabian Society, solid economic growth along side strong public services, effective political governance as well as fairness and the reduction of inequality – whether of wealth, income or power – remain important dimensions of our political compass.
The Fabian Society has for over 120 years made the link between ideas and organisation, between intellect and action. Our early pamphlets were not designed to stimulate debate in a pure, academic sense. They were designed to permeate society with the new ideas that would gradually change society.
The Fabians’ Beatrice Webb produced the Minority Report to the Poor Law Commission, which helped to herald a welfare state based on the idea of social justice for all. Fabians invented the idea of a national health service. We pioneered comprehensive education. We pioneered the idea of a United Nations.
It was a Fabian pamphlet where Ed Balls first muted independence for the Bank of England.
So from the welfare state to the NHS, from the role of women, to Britain’s place in the world, we have sought to challenge the conventions and assumptions of each generation, and make the world a better place for the next. Our affiliation is to the Labour party. And in just over 100 days, it’s the general election.
And when we look to what is at stake, we know it’s the future of Britain, and the welfare of hardworking individuals and families who today are struggling to make ends meet, or to invest in their children’s future. We need to win, not for Fabians, not for Labour, but for the people in our communities.
Last week on the doorstep in my constituency, I met a woman who looks after her disabled son, who said to me “do you know if there is a foodbank in Feltham? It’s just that I really need some support for my family. I go to the Salvation Army and they do help me but I feel bad because I know they have so many other people who need their help.”
Now that is not a conversation any of us want to be having on the doorstep, but it is happening with Labour activists across the country.
The Tory and Lib Dem parties in 2010 identified areas in UK where Britain could be better – but they made them worse
Cameron said cut the deficit, not the health service, and we have worst NHS crisis in years. The Tories and the Lib Dems introduced bedroom tax without first working out if sufficient smaller places for people to move to.
We also know we have a young generation, struggling under the Tories, and women hit hardest by the cuts.
Over 1000 people joined the Fabian New Year conference – many who are members of the Fabian Society, but many who were also joining us at Annual Conference for the first time. The ideas debated, around our role in Europe, reforms to our health services, accountability of local services to local people and winning women’s votes are all debates set to continue over the next four months.
I joined the Fabian Society as a Young Fabian in 1996, and never have I been to a Fabian event that has not got me thinking differently, taught me something new or met new and interesting people.
I am also incredibly proud as the founder and current president of the Fabian Women’s Network, that this month it celebrates its 10th anniversary, which we will be marking with an event and reception on the 10th February.
And of course, a general election just a matter of weeks away, at its heart one of the starkest choices ever placed before the people, with a choice between families worse off under the Tories, or better off under Labour.
This is not an election where you can sit on the fence, and we need to send that message loud and clear. Now is the time to share in the debate and be part of national conversation. And there’s no better place than the Fabians to do that.
Seema Malhotra is the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston, and Chair of the Fabian Society