Five things we learned from the Labour Party Conference
Jeremy Corbyn may be safe as Labour leader, but the party conference in Brighton was not all plain sailing.
Labour’s conference in Brighton has provided the first chance for the party to reflect on its advances at the general election.
Here are five things we have learned during the gathering:
Jeremy Corbyn’s position is secure
Chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” greeted the Labour leader wherever he went as his loyal supporters demonstrated their commitment to the man they believe has revitalised the party and offered a radical alternative to traditional politics.
Significantly, one of those chanting – from the conference stage, no less – was deputy leader Tom Watson, who had questioned whether Mr Corbyn could continue during the revolt by MPs against him last year. Other prominent former critics, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, also used the conference to publicly praise Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
The party is preparing for government
Labour frontbenchers used the conference to unveil a range of new policies and the party has produced an “implementation manual” designed to make sure that Mr Corbyn’s plans can be put into effect as soon as he enters Number 10. The Labour leader believes Theresa May’s Government has “run out of steam” and his party is ready for another election before the next scheduled poll in 2022.
Labour braced for backlash if it wins power
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has admitted that one of the scenarios being planned for is a run on the pound. Mr McDonnell said he did not expect such a scenario to unfold but the party had to be ready for an “assault” by opponents in the City, media and Parliament.
Europe is an issue
Jeremy Corbyn faced pressure from senior pro-EU figures within the party to commit Labour to remaining in the single market on a permanent basis after Brexit or even promise a second referendum to potentially overturn the decision to break away from Brussels.
Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale hit out at the party’s “lacklustre” efforts in the referendum campaign and blamed Mr Corbyn for failing to use his popular appeal to convince traditional Labour voters of the benefits of EU membership.
Mr Corbyn, who has never been a Europhile, said that although Brexit would be difficult there would be “positives”, suggesting it could make it easier to pursue a programme of nationalisation and state support for industry.
The Labour leadership will have been disappointed that controversial comments at fringe events have overshadowed efforts to portray Labour as a party of government. Rows over anti-Semitism led Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove Council, to suggest that the party could be banned from staging future conferences in the city unless action was taken.
“I will need reassurances that there will be no repeat of the behaviour and actions we have seen this week before any further bookings from the party are taken,” he said.
Meanwhile, senior figures spent the hours before Mr Corbyn’s keynote speech defending the Royal Family after MP Emma Dent Coad reportedly questioned Prince Harry’s ability to fly a helicopter and suggested he and his brother William were “not very bright”.