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Letter: Labour's activists

Sir: It is one of the myths of British politics that party conferences no longer matter. But, as the planned rebellion by Labour grass-roots activists illustrates, these annual gatherings still have an important role to play, if albeit internally.

Yes, they may not have the direct policy-making functions of old, but the debate, particularly on the "fringe", sets the parameters for the development of official party policy. You must also recognise their social impact, in bringing together an organisation's far-flung activists and generating a sense of shared purpose.

The annual conference provides an opportunity, in front of the world's media, to embarrass the party leadership and - for this reason alone - they still remain hugely relevant.