Coffee House

Five lessons from the Labour party conference

4 October 2012

4 October 2012

Believe it or not, Labour’s party conference has finally ground to a halt. Here are the key lessons from the past six days in Manchester:

1. Ed Miliband is no longer a joke leader of the opposition. The Labour leader’s speech showed that he can now talk a good game, and even though much of that performance was no more than a good game, Miliband gave his party and voters a glimpse of the more authoritative figure that he has grown into over the past two years. It’s worth watching his speech to the 2010 autumn conference where he appeared completely floored by bursts of applause to see quite how far he has come.

2. Miliband is keen to paint himself not just as the anti-politics politician by embracing his inner geek – I understand that his advisers have decided that they should take a cue from Boris Johnson’s success at appearing comfortable in his own eccentric skin – but also as the man qualified to tell the nation that ‘we’re all in this together’. By stealing One Nation and the Big Society from the Conservatives, Miliband is trying to argue that David Cameron’s party can no longer talk about tackling inequality or communities working together.

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3. Labour wants to make the 2015 general election about competence. This is extraordinarily audacious given the Brown years aren’t exactly a distant memory, but Miliband made a direct attack on the ‘miserable shower’ coalition government (which was more timely than he realised given the revelation the following day that the Transport department had messed up the West Coast Mainline franchise), and both he and Ed Balls have started to talk about the sort of economic inheritance a Labour government would face in 2015. Ed Balls also criticised government infighting in his speech, which again was curious given his own involvement in the vitriolic battles between Number 10 and the Treasury when Tony Blair was Prime Minister and Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

4. But the Labour party’s current unity is partly a result of MPs having very little to disagree about. The hard times are definitely still on their way for the party, with the leadership refusing to address big questions about cuts to public services, welfare reform and education. When they do, they will find that the row which the unions have been threatening starts to flare up, and their own MPs wringing their hands about policies which they instinctively oppose. While Miliband is keen to argue he is his own man, he still thinks it important to attend the TUC’s anti-austerity demo this October. He’ll need more than one good speech to arm him against some of the fights he faces to ensure Labour actually appears credible when voters go to the polls.

5. Labour conference is too long. The leader’s speech used to come in the middle of conference so Tony Blair could rush back to London and make a big show that he was returning to run the country. Now everyone else makes a point of rushing back to London on the Wednesday, leaving only the very keen beans drifting about the secure zone on the Thursday. The programme itself winds down, too: there are fewer fringes on the Wednesday. This might change as we draw nearer to 2015: after all, there are only so many panel discussions with Jon Cruddas refusing to talk policy details that one Labour delegate can hack, but when the party actually has a wide range of policies to chew over, the days after the leader’s speech might feel a little more meaty. If Miliband is going to face real battles with membership and parliamentarians on key issues, he might want to move his speech to the end of conference to avoid giving journalists the opportunity they currently have of coaxing bitchy quotes from MPs in the hotel bars in the evening after he speaks.

Finally, Labour had two big weaknesses going into this conference: Ed Miliband and irresponsibility on spending. These six days in Manchester have helped with the former but not the latter. Indeed, Ed Miliband’s decision to attend the anti-cuts march will actually exacerbate that problem.


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Show comments
  • llanystumdwy

    The Labour spin doctors have turned the conference into a farce attended by careerists and snake oil salesmen who denigrade politics with the scharade of unity and purposeless speeches which merely rubbish the opposition. Labour once discussed issues and had a healthy respect for democracy with open debate:not any more. Blair and Brown have turned Labour into a spineless non-entity who only cares about power without any care or understanding of what they want it for – other than satisfying the egos of their senior politicians.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Ed Miliband is no longer a joke leader of the opposition.

    Yeah but can you really picture a reject from the Addams Family (he really could be Pugsley) as Prime Minister?

  • Airey Belvoir

    Can we make an honourable exception for Andrew Neil, and (sometimes) Eddie Mair?

  • The Crunge

    You assume that austerity (living within our means) and growth are mutually exclusive. This is simply not the case and when either Mr Balls or Mr Milliband promulgates a strategy for growth it will be properly considered. Mr Balls suggestion regarding the use of 4th generation licence fees to fund housing is disingenuous because that money will come in during Mr Osbornes tenure, as he well knows, and will be used to reduce our still expanding national debt. I hate to disillusion you but Mr Balls has neither charisma or genius and in any event, these qualities have absolutely no relevance to the relief of our dire financial plight. Perhaps you could divert some of your considerable energies to constructing considered, evidence based arguments instead of mindless sloganising which impresses nobody and stimulates universal scorn rather than constructive debate. Until that time, as Hexamgeezer so succinctly puts it, you will be generally regarded as a ‘tit’.

  • The Crunge

    You assume that austerity (living within our means) and growth are mutually exclusive. This is simply not the case and when either Mr Balls or Mr Milliband promulgates a strategy for growth it will be properly considered. Mr Balls suggestion regarding the use of 4th generation licence fees to fund housing is disingenuous because that money will come in during Mr Osbornes tenure, as he well knows, and will be used to reduce our still expanding national debt. I hate to disillusion you but Mr Balls has neither charisma or genius and in any event, these qualities have absolutely no relevance to the relief of our dire financial plight. Perhaps you could divert some of your considerable energies to constructing considered, evidence based arguments instead of mindless sloganising which impresses nobody and stimulates universal scorn rather than constructive debate. Until that time, as Hexamgeezer so succinctly puts it, you will be generally regarded as a ‘tit’.

    • telemachus

      Poltics is about more than textbook economics
      It is about vision and motivation of the Nation
      Osborn has no vision and cannot motivate
      He is tired and must move over

  • arnoldo87

    Daniel,
    Thanks for that snippet. I hadn’t realised until today that the Union Flag was the property of the Conservative Party until 1997. The fact that the rest of the country could share it from then on is yet one more thing for which we have to thank Tony Blair.

  • arnoldo87

    Daniel,
    Thanks for that snippet. I hadn’t realised until today that the Union Flag was the property of the Conservative Party until 1997. The fact that the rest of the country could share it from then on is yet one more thing for which we have to thank Tony Blair.

    • Nicholas

      What unmitigated nonsense. Villain87. Yeah, got your measure, troll.

      • toni

        Floundering 😉

    • Nicholas

      What unmitigated nonsense. Villain87. Yeah, got your measure, troll.

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Lesson Number One – They Lie
    Lesson Number Two – They Lie
    ad infinitum……

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Lesson Number One – They Lie
    Lesson Number Two – They Lie
    ad infinitum……

  • Radford_NG

    5 0ct. c. 5.20 am. BST…………..Sorry:life’s just too short;literally.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    the Guardian would be proud to run this piece

  • Hexhamgeezer

    tit

    • telemachus

      Truth is Truth

      • Keith

        It is the truth: you are a tit.

        • telemachus

          like lol -t-i-t- truth is truth

          • Hexhamgeezer

            .Tit

        • telemachus

          like lol -t-i-t- truth is truth

      • Keith

        It is the truth: you are a tit.

  • wrinkledweasel

    “The Labour leader’s speech showed that he can now talk a good game”. No, he just said, “One Nation” a lot of times,

    http://youtu.be/tZd6DKntALM (Isabel clearly did not see this “One Nation” cut.)

  • Daniel Maris

    Just listening to Harriet Harman’s speech. God she’s embarrassing.

    She hits so many wrong notes it’s like listening to a Les Dawson piano routine.

    She got started early by telling us Ed’s favourite sport is baseball! LOL That lost him a few votes. Baseball? That’s just weird.

    You get the impression of a hermetically sealed free floating political entity bearing no relation to the reality of life as lived in the UK. Really, that is Labour’s problem that people like her can thrive within the party.

    • james102

      Yes they do have a Tin Ear for the British, particularly the
      English voters’ values. The ‘500 years under an oak tree’ was a classic. Do
      they employ speechwriters from the US?

      Harman has less excuse than the Milibands who are
      internationalist in their background David even went to the US to adopt his
      children rather than adopt here.

  • Nicholas

    You should be in a straight jacket but a jam jar would do too.

    • telemachus

      You should have been there Nico
      Broaden your horizons

      • Nicholas

        Ah the diminutive again. You think it gives you power and all you socialist scum really want is power over others.

        As for horizons I’m betting my life experiences within cultural diversities knock yours into a cocked hat.

        • telemachus

          Not power
          A sign of respect
          respect since lawsuits were threatened for comparisons with Kerensky’s predecessor (and other things)
          *
          If experienced with cultural diversity, take up your pen and celebrate multiculturalism

          • The Crunge

            Perhaps you could do us all a favour and define multiculturalism. This was certainly a task which proved beyond the powers of the eloquent Mr Blair so I await your definition with eager anticipation. Alternatively, you could use your usual glib, I’ll considered and irrelevant style of response.

          • The Crunge

            Perhaps you could do us all a favour and define multiculturalism. This was certainly a task which proved beyond the powers of the eloquent Mr Blair so I await your definition with eager anticipation. Alternatively, you could use your usual glib, I’ll considered and irrelevant style of response.

          • Nicholas

            Cultural diversity and multiculturalism are different things. Cultural diversity has always been an unremarkable aspect of British society, imbued through centuries of Empire and Commonwealth. Multiculturalism is a weapon of mass destruction created by socialists to advance their conformist ideology through hate-mongering laws and coercion, to undermine the nation state and de-stabilise it.

          • Nicholas

            Cultural diversity and multiculturalism are different things. Cultural diversity has always been an unremarkable aspect of British society, imbued through centuries of Empire and Commonwealth. Multiculturalism is a weapon of mass destruction created by socialists to advance their conformist ideology through hate-mongering laws and coercion, to undermine the nation state and de-stabilise it.

  • Nicholas

    Yes indeed and several of their sad bullies are trying to peddle their half-baked nonsense here.

    “Be reasonable (whine), obey my charter (whine), I love Stalin and Beria (whine), Balls is my hero (whine), lets go for growth (whine), blah, blah, blah” (ad infinitum)

  • Nicholas

    Key lesson from the utterly dishonest Labour party conference to re-invent itself and pretend the past never happened and their struggle for justice has been continuous:-

    You’ll be sorreeeeeeeeeee!

  • HooksLaw

    How has the one nation ground been vacated? Income tax is still higher than it was under 13 years of Labour. labour left a deficit of nearly 160 billion. Before that it had been running deficits for years. Those are none bank intervention deficits.

    The flaw in your argument is the word ‘if’. Miliband can emote and promise to his hearts content in his semi detached world of opposition. He no doubt desperately hopes the coalition will have done all his dirty work for him by 2015, no matter what he pretends otherwise. The reality is Labour’s mess ill take a generation to clear up and we know that if ever back in government labour will simply pretend otherwise and spend their way out of awkward corners yet again.

    • Daniel Maris

      Hooks Law –

      You have to explain how “Labour’s mess” – this isolated, singular incident – has coincidentally been replicated in virtually all countries on the planet with similar per capita GDP.

      Nearly all developed countries are struggling with a debt burden – not least because they can (ie the alternative of not doing so isn’t that great).

      Why don’t we all grow up and stare reality in the face, eh?

      • Fergus Pickering

        I understand that our burden of debt was higher than anyone else’s because Broon had spent all the money. Is that not right?

        • Sweetpea

          Deficit levels in 2007 were broadly similar to what Labour inherited from the Tories in 1997. The debt ballooned not because spending sudenly rose in 2008 but because revenues flatlined with the collapse of the banking sector. The over-reliance of both Tory and Labour governments on the financial sector has led us to where we are today.

          • Nicholas

            Rubbish.

            • Sweetpea

              Labour entered the 2008 recession “with a similar structural budget deficit to the one that it inherited from the Conservatives, but with a smaller underlying debt” ~ Institute for Fiscal Studies.

              • Nicholas

                Institute for Labour Stooges more like. The result of much book-cooking and slight of hand by one Gordon Brown.

                • Sweetpea

                  That’ll be the IFS George Osborne praised as, “a much respected independent institute”.

              • Nicholas

                Institute for Labour Stooges more like. The result of much book-cooking and slight of hand by one Gordon Brown.

            • Sweetpea

              Labour entered the 2008 recession “with a similar structural budget deficit to the one that it inherited from the Conservatives, but with a smaller underlying debt” ~ Institute for Fiscal Studies.

            • arnoldo87

              Sorry Nicholas – Sweetpea is absolutely correct. If you know some data that the National Statistics Office doesn’t I think you should give them to us. See my reply to Hooks Law to get the official figures.

          • Nicholas

            Rubbish.

    • TomTom

      VAT on fuel is 5% thanks to Labour in 1997 – under Conservative plans it would now be 20%. You obsess with Income Tax

    • arnoldo87

      “Before that it had been running deficits for years”
      Hooks Law – here are the budget figures (£bn) from 1993:-
      93 -50; 94 -45; 95 -42; 96 -32; 97 -18; 98 +1; 99 +10; 00 +14; 01 +8; 02 -17; 03 -34; 04 -38; 05 -42; 06 -40; 07 -44; 08 -90; 09 -170:
      So the truth is that Labour actually ran a SURPLUS for the first 4 years in office until they decided to spend more money on health and education from 2002. After that they had roughly the same record as the Major government on budget deficits up until the (worldwide) banking crisis of 2007/8, when bank bail-outs and loss of revenues made the situation much worse.
      The ” Labour Mess” accusation is therefore groundless. The really bad figures were the direct result of the Banking Crisis. Labour were culpable in failing to regulate the casino banks properly, but the Tories were even softer on bank legislation than Blair.

    • arnoldo87

      “Before that it had been running deficits for years”
      Hooks Law – here are the budget figures (£bn) from 1993:-
      93 -50; 94 -45; 95 -42; 96 -32; 97 -18; 98 +1; 99 +10; 00 +14; 01 +8; 02 -17; 03 -34; 04 -38; 05 -42; 06 -40; 07 -44; 08 -90; 09 -170:
      So the truth is that Labour actually ran a SURPLUS for the first 4 years in office until they decided to spend more money on health and education from 2002. After that they had roughly the same record as the Major government on budget deficits up until the (worldwide) banking crisis of 2007/8, when bank bail-outs and loss of revenues made the situation much worse.
      The ” Labour Mess” accusation is therefore groundless. The really bad figures were the direct result of the Banking Crisis. Labour were culpable in failing to regulate the casino banks properly, but the Tories were even softer on bank legislation than Blair.

  • LB

    First rule of Labour conference?

    Don’t talk about the deficit.

    Second rule.

    Don’t talk about the debt

    Third rule.

    Don’t talk about the accounting fraud and why the state pension isn’t a debt

    Forth rule.

    Stick to the first three rules, or the public will cotton on and not pay for our salaries.

    Fifth rule.

    Don’t tell the public we aren’t going to pay the 20p in pound we currently pay out on the state pension

    • Nicholas

      Excellent. The Labour trolls can gather here to heckle but the truth always speaks for itself.

    • dalai guevara

      I agree with you LB
      but when the privatisation shambles continues with:

      1- alleged private profiteering in a4e
      2- collosal cock-ups at g4s
      3- NHS privatisation that apparantly no clinician agrees with
      4- and now the exposure of how bad our rail service really is, compared to France, Germany or Spain, who have all proven how third generation HSR works in public ownership

      …then we might just about see a conservative government reverse a conservative government’s decision from 1993.

  • Bruce, UK

    I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. ~John Locke

    Enjoy your march Ed.

  • Bruce, UK

    I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. ~John Locke

    Enjoy your march Ed.

  • TomTom

    Key Lesson: Don’t Vote for Them ! Don’t Vote for Any of Them ! They have their Hidden Agenda under the Carnival Paint

  • TomTom

    Key Lesson: Don’t Vote for Them ! Don’t Vote for Any of Them ! They have their Hidden Agenda under the Carnival Paint

  • Charlie the Chump

    more socialist drivel in a magazine once highly regarded for its libertarian, conservative views and analysis.

    • DavidDP

      What’s exactly socialist in the above article?

      • Nicholas

        Er, two of the five “key lessons” are about Milliband and three are about Labour. Last time I looked Milliband and Labour were both (national) socialist constructs.

  • strapworld

    Isabel, Why no comment on the teenager being booed when speaking of the good education she was getting at Paddington Academy? Surely that puts this wonderful ONE NATION crap into perspective? ConHome has the story.

  • strapworld

    Isabel, Why no comment on the teenager being booed when speaking of the good education she was getting at Paddington Academy? Surely that puts this wonderful ONE NATION crap into perspective? ConHome has the story.

    • IsabelHardman

      Hi alan, I did actually post about this a few hours ago: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/10/hes-behind-you-michael-gove-is-the-pantomime-villain-who-inspires-labour/, while our gossip blogger Steerpike posted on Gove’s response: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2012/10/gove-kicks-back-at-school-bullies/

      For what it’s worth, I was in the conference hall this afternoon, and was sitting only a few rows behind the woman who heckled the teenager. The yr 11 pupil was giving a lovely speech which wasn’t too precocious or tiresome about her time at Paddington Academy. When she started talking about how her school offered so many extra-curricular activities, a woman yelled ‘comprehensives do that too!’. The girl managed to carry on.

      This was an extraordinarily rude thing to do. Heckling anyone is a bit pants, but heckling a girl who is still at secondary school is particularly mean-spirited. I do think that the woman who heckled (and it was just one delegate) highlighted a shared anger among sections of the Labour membership about comprehensives and academies – in the Miliband Q&A yesterday another delegate asked him to speak up for comps. But in this case I don’t think it’s fair to say that all Labour delegates are like the heckler. There are hideously rude people of every party persuasion, and this woman was one of them. Delegates around her did look pretty darn shocked.

      All that said, Labour are in a complete pickle on education. They struggle to support the reforms that Gove is carrying on from their own time in government, and Twigg is pulled in all directions by the leadership and the unions. He’s actually a lot more sensible than a lot of the rest of his party, but he has a huge wall of vested interests to bang his head against.

      Hope this answers your question!

    • IsabelHardman

      Hi alan, I did actually post about this a few hours ago: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/10/hes-behind-you-michael-gove-is-the-pantomime-villain-who-inspires-labour/, while our gossip blogger Steerpike posted on Gove’s response: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2012/10/gove-kicks-back-at-school-bullies/

      For what it’s worth, I was in the conference hall this afternoon, and was sitting only a few rows behind the woman who heckled the teenager. The yr 11 pupil was giving a lovely speech which wasn’t too precocious or tiresome about her time at Paddington Academy. When she started talking about how her school offered so many extra-curricular activities, a woman yelled ‘comprehensives do that too!’. The girl managed to carry on.

      This was an extraordinarily rude thing to do. Heckling anyone is a bit pants, but heckling a girl who is still at secondary school is particularly mean-spirited. I do think that the woman who heckled (and it was just one delegate) highlighted a shared anger among sections of the Labour membership about comprehensives and academies – in the Miliband Q&A yesterday another delegate asked him to speak up for comps. But in this case I don’t think it’s fair to say that all Labour delegates are like the heckler. There are hideously rude people of every party persuasion, and this woman was one of them. Delegates around her did look pretty darn shocked.

      All that said, Labour are in a complete pickle on education. They struggle to support the reforms that Gove is carrying on from their own time in government, and Twigg is pulled in all directions by the leadership and the unions. He’s actually a lot more sensible than a lot of the rest of his party, but he has a huge wall of vested interests to bang his head against.

      Hope this answers your question!

    • DavidDP

      Only if it was a member of the Shadow Cabinet doing the heckling. Disgraceful as it was, if it was a random member of the party, it’s not exactly a peek into the “real” Ed.

    • DavidDP

      Only if it was a member of the Shadow Cabinet doing the heckling. Disgraceful as it was, if it was a random member of the party, it’s not exactly a peek into the “real” Ed.

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