(Photo: courtesy of Anthony Webber)
The Labour Party conference was from the 21st to 25th September, held this year at Brighton.
It was well attended and having attended the TUC conference in early September at the same venue, I had a good idea of what to expect, at least on the Brexit issue. I had witnessed the TUC let down the majority of this country with their Brexit policy and something similar was about to happen with the new Labour party policy on Brexit too.
It is important to stress that like any large party, the Labour one is a broad church with a number of strands of opinion. There was a packed agenda of conference and fringe events .
The fringe meetings covered a huge variety of different issues.
There were also numerous exhibition stands representing all sorts of different political and business organisations.
The Labour party debated their policy on Brexit, and it ended up being pretty much a disaster.
It nearly was a more blatant remain option and ended up with a fudge which will not help the party electorally at all.
In essence the new policy is to negotiate a new deal with the EU, and then to put that deal or remain on a referendum ballot paper. It shows a scandalous disrespect for the 2016 referendum decision, and most Labour members openly admit to saying they do not look forward to presenting this policy on the election doorsteps.
New political ideas to consider from the Labour conference:
As for other political policies agreed by the Labour party at their conference, a number of them will appear attractive to a good proportion of voters. Indeed, if the Labour party had a pro- Brexit policy and were not seen as having been trying to prevent Brexit, then their other policies would assist them electorally.
The Labour policy on free prescription charges is eminently sensible as it is only putting England in line with the other Home countries. In fact, the other parties would be mad not to adopt this policy without delay.
The Labour policy on State ownership of utilities and transport providers will attract some criticism, but the reality is that most voters find this attractive. Again, any party not adjusting their policy in this area would risk losing votes.
This is not seen as “socialist” politics.
One only has to look at where I come from, Guernsey, to see that the government owns the main airline, the post office, the electricity company, the water company and more.
What the public perceive with privatisation, is that what were once assets owned by the taxpayer end up being owned by foreign corporations and governments- equivalent to selling off the family silver.
There were undoubtedly also new Labour policies which were not that appealing to most voters but any rival party should be worried about the policies which are potentially popular and result in them losing votes.
There were many interesting issues brought up at the fringe meetings, of which I attended quite a few.
These issues unfortunately became submerged by the Brexit scenario.
There were a number of Receptions, and one I attended was by Scottish Labour.
I was reminded that many enjoy conferences for their abundance of free alcohol, socialising and even dancing.
The Labour Friends of Israel reception was interesting in that it was a reminder of some of the frictions in the party, but it still was a successful evening.
Message of Labour party conference:
The Labour party conference was affected towards the end by the Supreme Court ruling on the need for Parliament to be recalled. This meant the bringing forward of the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech.
This was deemed to be one of his more inspiring speeches, with a raft of new policies, some which will be popular, and others not quite so.
The problem the Labour party has is that it doesn’t matter how wonderful their other policies are because the public are more interested in the Brexit issue and getting that resolved.
If Brexit had been achieved, then the Labour party would probably perform well with their new policies, but that is not the case.
In fact the public are likely to blame the Labour party for further delaying Brexit and for effectively having a remain in the EU standpoint.
As this is going against the Labour party 2017 General Election pledge, it brings up the issue of trust and if the Labour cannot be trusted on what they said about Brexit, can they be trusted to deliver on any of their new policies either ?
Labour is now seen as for the few, not the many!
One of the fringe meetings I attended was Labour Vote Leave.
The influence of the “leave” camp in Labour is diminishing, and well known MP Kate Hoey was billed for this meeting but did not attend.
The speakers included a former Labour MP, a present one and two Trade Union officials.
Brighton was described as “remain on sea,” which was amusing.
There were many excellent points made, including “ why was Labour chasing a share of the 48% remain voters?”
Another was, “Labour is listening to the few, not the many.”
I felt that this voice should have been heard in the main conference hall, not at a small fringe meeting, but that is the state of Brexit in the Labour party at the moment.
Labour’s changed immigration policy could also lose it votes:
A final point about the Labour party conference was its endorsement of what can only be described as mass immigration policies. The debate on these issues ignored the fact that the UK is over-crowded with all resources stretched to the limit. It ignored the fact that immigration was a major factor in the EU referendum result.
When former Labour Home Secretaries attack this new policy, it is pretty obvious that many people feel it lacks realism and will lose the party votes.
So the Labour party are likely to lose out greatly with their illogical Brexit policy, made worse by their illogical Immigration policy
What will happen politically in the UK?
At the moment, the state of UK politics is going through a period of uncertainty.
No one knows for sure if the current government will be able to stay in power and if not what sort of government would take over, and how long it will be before there is a General Election.
In those circumstances it is difficult to make any predictions, as the way people vote will undoubtedly be influenced by whether and how Brexit is achieved.
What the other parties need to learn from the Labour party conference is the need to have some inspiring new policies.
Any party which takes some of the more popular Labour policies from them, will be like taking the carpet from underneath them.
At present, Labour are depending on their other policies to save them from the voters’ wrath.
The Conservative party urgently need some new appealing policies rather than catch up on reversing their austerity policy.
The Liberal Democrats appear to have nothing apart from their anti-Brexit party and both they and the Greens have allowed their other policies to lose emphasis, at least in the public eyed anyway.
As for The Brexit Party, there are no new votes in opposing HS2 and wind farms.
They urgently need new policies, especially a strong one on immigration.
The same applies to UKIP, and although they are more advanced in terms of having some other policies, they need to recover in the polls to merit getting people’s votes.