Labour Conference: Instinctif took notes
It wasn’t big, but it was quite clever:
The Conference had quite a low-key feel, some even said downbeat. Most noticeably security was nowhere near as intense as it was for the Conservatives in their final phase of Opposition in 2008/09. However, fringes were well-attended, pretty interesting, and Shadow Ministers were in thoughtful mood with many trying to make fairly moderate, soothing, more pro-business noises.
But does Labour really expect to be in government next year?
Shadow Ministers were thoughtful but they were also fairly vague, a lot of depth still needs to be added to policy. Many of the policies highlighted at the Conference were outlined at last year’s event in Brighton, whether this was UK state operators being allowed to compete for rail franchises, or business taking on an overseas employee needing to train an apprentice. Around financial services, a lot of fringe debate seemed to be addressing the issues of 2009 rather than the next five years.
The Shadow Cabinet made few new announcements (that Labour would drop the Government’s immigration cap was one), these were held back for the Leader’s Speech. Party members meanwhile seemed to be passionate rather than thoughtful, and not in a particularly forgiving mood, not towards bankers, tax avoiders, or private companies delivering public services.
The speech: was this Ed’s big moment and did he blow it?
Ahead of the Labour Party Conference, Team Miliband will have wanted to achieve a reduction in the Two Eds trailing Cameron and Osborne on ‘who do you best trust with the economy’ question. Miliband will also have wanted to show that he can respond to the disillusionment with Westminster politics that the Scottish Independence vote seemed to show. Whilst we all know that the economy specifically was not raised in Miliband’s keynote moment, Ed Balls delivered a speech on the Monday aimed at showing that Labour in Government would show restraint, and Shadow Ministers were very keen to urge restraint when responding to any new policy requests from around the fringe. And Miliband’s speech may have reinforced the feedback from polling which shows him as the Party Leader most likely to understand people’s everyday problems. But, in truth, it is hard to say that either objective was really nailed.
Indeed, in 1996 Tony Blair declared that Labour had a thousand days to prepare for a thousand years. Looking forward another 18 years – to 2032 – it seems unlikely that anybody will be able to remember “let’s make it happen: together” without a lot of cunning googling, even if Ed Miliband has spent a decade as Prime Minister.