Labour’s party conference kicks off this weekend in Brighton which will inevitably cue factional infighting, the odd motion stich up or two and of course a healthy dose of talking down the party’s chances of success in the coming electoral set pieces.
Looking beyond the inevitable, DGA Interel preview three key things avid spectators should look out for over Labour Party Conference
Labour under new management?
Previewing the Labour leadership election for Interel a whole 18 months ago, we wrote:
“What can be said with relative certainty is that the new leader of the Labour Party is highly unlikely to be Prime Minister in 2024…But this leadership contest is about something almost as important – whether the Labour Party survives as an electoral vehicle of a progressive democratic socialist movement”.
In the first major gathering of Labour personnel since Keir Starmer’s election, we may receive the answer to this critical question.
Is Labour under new management, as Keir Starmer delightfully quipped during PMQs over a year ago, or is the party machinery still a vestige of the Corbyn era?
Conference may give us some important indications. And no indication will be greater than the result of the crunch vote over the one member, one vote system (OMOV) which in 2015 replaced the electoral college of unions, affiliate organisations and party members.
Put simply, the OMOV system gives power to the members. However, with Labour Party membership costing as little as £3 a year, it doesn’t so much give power to old standing members, as it concentrates power within the hands of zealous membership organisations such as Momentum.
It’s a bold fight for Starmer to pick. One which goes beyond the symbolic into the functional.
This vote will be a true test of whether Labour is firmly in the hands of Starmer and General Secretary, David Evans, or whether Momentum still hold trump cards.
Red Wall or Blue Wall?
With the wounds of the 2019 election still fresh, Starmer has a major decision to make. What will be the strategic direction of the party?
Is it one which will seek to hold and recapture dozens of the former red wall seats, or will it be a pivot to the tearing down the blue wall, as the Lib Dems successfully did in Chesham and Amersham, removing one small but symbolic brick. There are key seats in cities and suburbs ripe for picking, not least the likes of Kensington and Chipping Barnet.
Ed Davey could not have been more unequivocal in his Lib Dem Conference Leader’s speech, as he laid down the gauntlet to MPs in the blue wall, Tory heartlands.
Will Starmer provide a similar insight into the Party’s strategy, will his articulation of this strategy have the same level of conviction?
Or will Starmer do, as he has for much of his tenure as Labour leader and continue to walk down the middle of the road?
There is a feeling that to really capture hearts and minds as we enter the second decade of the century, that there is no substitute for conviction. It may be that, to succeed, Starmer Will need to abandon his please all position and aggressively pursue a targeted strategy, which could, all being well, significantly eat into the Conservative majority, or even force them into a minority Government.
A Star is Born?
If the recent Cabinet Reshuffle laid bare the dearth of superbly talented Conservatives, Labour’s problem is at the very least opposite and equal.
In the first Labour Conference since the 2019 General Election, eyes will be peeled to see what sort of reaction key figures in the 2019 intake will receive from Party members, media and if there is some ability to cut through to the wider public.
Labour is in desperate need of effective communicators who speak passionately, credibly and are able to capture the nation’s interests, especially the millions located across former red wall seats.
The future of the Party may well depend on the emergence of these future stars and conference will provide the perfect stage.
by Adam Isaacs, Account Director