Posts Tagged ‘Labour conference’

Labour’s life-support conference approaches

23/08/2017, 09:55:17 PM

by Rob Marchant

It does not take a Nostradamus to predict that this year’s will have to be the craziest Labour conference since 1985 or, quite possibly, ever.

On the one hand you will have hubris: bright-eyed young Corbynite new recruits, feeling buoyed and excited by the party’s “success” in the general election (i.e. we did not lose too badly). The old-fashioned Trots, to their surprise finding themselves back in the party and with their day in the sun. And some of the long-time, idealistic soft left, not yet jaded by the disingenuousness of their leader’s position on Europe.

On the other you will have something approaching despair: the party’s centrists, Blairites, Brownites (as if those labels mean anything any more) and perhaps some old-time trade unionists and working-class members, seeking out each others’ company for warmth, in the party’s long, cold, dark night of the soul.

But the polls, the Corbynites will say, glowingly.

It is not, patently, about how Labour is doing in the polls against a terrible government. It is about the structural carnage it is wreaking on itself and whether that is sustainable in the long run. Or whether it has reached the tipping point of irreparable damage.

One day, it will not be up against a useless government grappling hopelessly with Brexit. Indeed, Theresa May might even – as Michael Heseltine has implied – dump her current Brexit ministers to draw the sting, then renew her premiership with a more workable approach and new people, in the process dodging the numerous bullets currently being aimed at her. It could happen.

No matter: one day there will be a half-decent Tory leader who will mercilessly take apart their bearded opponent. But at the moment this is not happening, because (a) it’s clearly better for the Tories he stays where he is, and (b) on Brexit, the main issue of the day, he pretty much supports their policies. Why fix what ain’t broke?

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Leadership challenge? You can’t be serious

08/10/2014, 01:15:34 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is always a little unwise to make predictions, as us bloggers occasionally find some time later, to our shame and embarrassment.

But perhaps we can venture one now. If there is a silly season within conference season, it is surely within Lib Dem conference. And this year, a few MPs and journalists have used its abject pointlessness as an excuse to take a break from serious politics.

And, indeed, from reality altogether: they have convinced themselves that a Labour leadership challenge is in the air, as these pieces from the Telegraph and the Mail show.

Only it’s not. Or, at least, it’s incredibly unlikely.

Oh, that’s not to say that some aren’t thinking about it, some even vaguely seriously. It’s always good to check where one’s political stock is, and a dip in the polls is an attractive time to do so.

But there are a lot of good reasons why it is merely fanciful thinking – more a crying into one’s beer in a Manchester hotel bar than a serious, credible campaign briefing.

First, history. Unlike the Tories, Labour is the anti-nasty party; one which gives a sometimes annoying level of benefit-of-the-doubt. It does not generally dump leaders before they have had a chance to lose an election (in fact, it sometimes doesn’t even dump them afterwards, as the 1987 election taught us, even if it really should).

Second, if a leadership challenge has not happened by a half-year before the election, it is a particularly dumb time to try and have one. No-one has time to put together a hole-free policy program in that time, which reflects their own personal stamp.

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Ed’s speech needed to change the political weather. It didn’t

24/09/2014, 12:53:19 PM

by Rob Marchant

23 September, 2014: the culmination of four years as leader. Milliband’s last major pitch to lead the country, for this parliament at least.

From now, time can only tell whether it has been the gateway to a whole new vista of politics for Miliband and the keys to No. 10; an attempt to convince his party that he would be still the best option after a narrow defeat; or some kind of a swansong.

Now, the central message of the speech is one which resonates – with the Tories, you’re on your own. The many not the few. We all believe in that, it’s what makes us Labour. And Miliband rightly points up the transparent makeover that David Cameron made of his party, in order to get elected, only to be swiftly ditched shortly thereafter. Good attack lines.

The question is, of course, with eight months to a general election, whether we are perceived as offering a credible, viable alternative. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Presentationally, the decision to offer a ten-year plan, while admirably long-term thinking, seems a tactical error (at least we might thank our lucky stars it was not a five-year plan, although the echo of Chairman Mao was still enough to please the headline-writers).

And let’s be honest: after four years, the “I met this guy” format is starting to look a little tired. As the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow put it: “if I were David Cameron’s speechwriter, I would already be working up a passage for Cameron’s conference speech about how Labour policy is now being decided…by whichever stranger Miliband happens to meet in his local park.”

But these are quibbles. It is the meat we need to evaluate.

To start with, it was telling that the centerpiece of the speech is a conversation with a former Lib Dem voter. Worryingly, whether or not we believe in the existence of the fabled “35% strategy” of attracting former Lib Dem voters, we certainly still seem to be aiming for the Lib-Dems-plus-a-few-other-odds-and-sods strategy, a patchwork quilt of support from different interest groups.

And we can see it in the speech – there is a nod to practically everyone. While some of this is normal in a conference speech, here it veered towards the extreme: the gay vote, pro-Europe liberals, public service workers, boxes were being ticked for parcels of leftish voters in every other sentence. To ensure we don’t lose either Muslim or Jewish voters, dammit, the man is even going to bring peace between Israel and Palestine.

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Come to TechCentral at #Lab14

20/09/2014, 12:45:13 PM

tc-manchester

Sponsored post.

The UK political party conferences have seen health hotels and transport hubs; now it is time for TechCentral. An initiative from the teams behind Labour Uncut, MessageSpace and Big Brother Watch, TechCentral?is putting technology and digital policy firmly on the party conference agenda for the first time.

With key players in the industry, including TalkTalk, Microsoft, EE, Facebook and a host of NGOs and start-ups, showcasing fringe meetings, debates, interactive experiences and workshops, TechCentral promises to be an exciting addition to the party conference season.

Conveniently placed in a marquee within the secure zone at the Labour and Conservative conferences and in the conference centre at the Liberal Democrat conference, TechCentral offers?MPs, delegates, campaigners and journalists the chance to debate and explore tech and digital policy. MPs and candidates will also have the chance to brush up on their social media skills ahead of the general election through a series of workshops.

Emma Carr, co-founder of TechCentral says: ?How technology and data are used can fundamentally improve the way that our country, and indeed the world, functions. Yet far more can be done to ensure that technology policy making is better informed and it is this that lies at the heart of TechCentral.?We’re very pleased to have significant players in the digital industry supporting the project in its first year. The conferences will feature sessions on social media training for the general election and fringes on digital policy, all of which we very much hope the delegates will enjoy.”

TechCentral will be kitted out with free Wi-Fi from EE, the Facebook Geni Bar, live conference feed and a bloggers lounge (when fringes are not taking place).

For a full agenda of events taking place in TechCentral at each conference just click:Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Conference, or head over to the TechCentralwebsite.

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Vision and denial

29/09/2011, 03:02:32 PM

by Rob Marchant

“The system has failed”, ran the original headline for the speech write-up chosen by the BBC, though they later changed it. But it has not.Britain has problems, yes. But it is not, in Cameron’s words, broken, however politically convenient it might be for either party to use that as a basis for change. And this was by no means a terrible speech; but its fundamental premise of moral decline was flawed, and it became a disappointing, and slightly alarming one.

In fact, in the wonderfully reassuring and welcoming bubble of a party conference, it is rather difficult to give a truly bad speech. The trick is not to sink into the soft, comfy armchair of audience acclaim and be drowned in its melting, enveloping embrace, like in some bad horror movie. Crowd pleasing is easy but, as Ed is only too aware, the real audience is outside.

There were some good things in the speech. Although even an outline of the solutions was nowhere to be seen, ultimately, the “squeezed middle” theme is a broadly correct analysis. There was the “You can’t trust the Tories on the National Health Service” passage on the NHS, made for the TV bulletins and an effective attack line against the Tories which will resonate.

But the speech was not about worrying Cameron (who I doubt will have broken sweat at any moment during the speech), so much as about convincing the public that Ed is prime minister material, and setting out direction of travel. (more…)

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Peter Wheeler’s alternative conference guide

24/09/2011, 10:46:57 AM

Conference wouldn’t be conference without Peter Wheeler’s gonzo guide to surviving the week – get your fill of the best boozers, events and eateries Liverpool has to offer. And keep an eye out for Peter on your travels.

PW Conf Guide 2011a

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David Prescott reports from David Miliband’s big speech

27/09/2010, 03:35:45 PM

It was like seeing a former girlfriend you’d taken for granted and finally parted from. Only to realise that you loved her after all.

Problem was, she’d moved on.

I predicted the other day that David could read the Manchester Yellow Pages and bring the house down.

But boy did he do his homework, and the media missed out on the big message.

It was the best conference speech since Blair’s inaugural address in 1994. (more…)

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Conference diary: the morning after, part 1

26/09/2010, 11:47:42 AM

Union chiefs toasting Ed Miliband’s success last night should be on their guard. Uncut understands that John Prescott is likely to fail in his bid to become the party’s treasurer, pipped to the post by Unite’s Diana Holland. As with the leadership, it appears that union votes were the decisive factor. Hell hath no fury like a Prescott scorned.

* * *

Changes on Team Ed? Spectators surprised at the vigour with which Neil Kinnock campaigned for our new leader will have noted Rachel Kinnock leading Ed on his tour of the victory circuit. Rachel has been a senior advisor over the past few months, and is likely to be a key player in his leadership team. More mysterious is the sudden disappearance of Polly Billington, Ed’s chief spinner. She was apparently not returning calls last night, and hungry hacks were being re-routed to other aides. Where are you Polly? Give Uncut a call.

* * *

Great excitement in the Uncut office yesterday when we received a tip from a senior Labour insider. “David’s in first”, came the message. Excitedly, we prepared to unleash our scoop to the world. Then we learned that our comrade had merely got on the train to Manchester, and seen David Miliband sitting in a first class carriage. He was in good company.

* * *

If Peter Mandelson was planning to do a turn at conference, Uncut advises him to stay away. Already identified by Team Ed as the source of much of the “bile” directed at their candidate, he has now been fingered by Team Dave as a key factor in the their defeat. Last night disappointed DM staffers were identifying Peter’s interventions at key moments as the turning point in the contest.  “It was Peter that lost it for us”, said one exasperated aide.

* * *

Touring the bars in the early hours in our bid to bring our readers the most juicy conference morsels, Uncut bumped into David Clark, Robin Cook’s former special advisor. “Much more of this and you should change your name to Labour Half-cut”, he said. It’s under consideration.

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Peter Wheeler’s alternative conference guide

24/09/2010, 03:38:42 PM

PWFP Guide

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What really goes on at Labour party conference, by Dan Hodges

24/09/2010, 02:00:57 PM

At the opening of North by North West, Cary Grant’s character, Roger Thornhill, is abducted from his friends and family, transported to a remote location, and persecuted by his captors. Confused and disoriented, they pour alcohol down his throat, question and abuse him, and demand answers about his work with government. Finally, his ordeal complete, he is thrown out onto the road, left to negotiate his own hazardous route back to safety  and sanity.

Roger Thornhill would have felt right at home at Labour conference. As a party we proclaim a passionate commitment to reform of the Parliamentary process. The insane working hours. The drinking culture. A building unfit for purpose. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to internal policymaking we think the best solution is to entomb the entire Labour movement for a week in a cramped, sweaty, municipal arena, deny them food and sleep, ply them with booze, then refuse to let them out until they’ve discovered the new Jerusalem.

Soon after our victory in 1997, I asked a Downing Street aide whether they planned to follow through on Tony Blair’s stated desire to downsize conference, or even make it a biennial event. “Daren’t”, came the reply. “Party wouldn’t stand for it”. Abolish Clause four. Invade Iraq. Privatise public services. No  problem. Touch the free spread at agents’ night and you’re history.

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