The Story of Conference

Conference began with the expectation that it would be inward facing and fractious. Instead, Conference was coherent and, on the whole, united in purpose. The leader’s speech focused on big politics and was a useful evolutionary development of the 2017 manifesto.

Jeremy did tackle one area of internal party strife: anti-Semitism. He gave a clear rebuke to those who say there are no anti-Semites or anti-Semitism in Labour, saying ‘we will work with Jewish communities to eradicate antisemitism, both from our party and wider society. And with your help I will fight for that with every breath I possess.’ Jeremy wants to draw a line under the continuing issues with anti-Semitism and the challenge for him and Jennie Formby is to expel those anti-Semites whose cases have been languishing unactioned, and to follow up his verbal rapprochement with an actual rapprochement with Jewish communal organisations.

Other than that, the speech was like a greatest hits album of a veteran artist just prior to release. He promised a Labour government would introduce a second homes levy to provide first homes to those without; 30 hours free childcare for 2,3 and 4-year-olds; the pensions triple-lock and workers places on company boards. A gentle development from the Miliband era and reflective of Open Labour’s positions and the pieces we have commissioned on our website. We warmly welcome these ideas being implemented by a Labour government, bringing a Scandi-style Social Democracy to the UK: re-balancing power and reducing inequality to improve economic, social and health outcomes.

On Brexit, there was an endorsement of Keir Starmer’s speech and the new Labour policy. Movement will need to be rapid if we are to advance through the steps needed to avoid a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, so the ball is in Jeremy’s court to get a general election quickly and then secure a deal we can unite around or a further vote with Remain as an option.

The most radical policy announcements were saved for the environment. Open Labour, alongside SERA, and those in the Green movement have been clear that without rapid expansion of renewables, retrofitting housing, electric vehicle technology and carbon sinking we would never meet our Paris commitments. Both Rebecca Long-Bailey and John McDonnell used their speeches to open up this space; they have Alan Whitehead and Clive Lewis in their teams who have been agitating for this shift in the last few months as well as Alan Simpson who is a former Campaign Group MP and John McDonnell’s chief policy advisor on the Environment. In his speech, Jeremy Corbyn went further and called for Net Zero Growth by 2050 which would require plans matching those of Norway, which has much smaller Industrial base and an earlier start. This would be transformative and see the end of natural gas, combustion engines and the need for mass electric aviation in the next 32 years. In 2050, the UK would be completely unrecognisable. This would create 400,000 new jobs in the first term of a Labour government and require a green re-industrialisation. This was a vision of a Green Britain equivalent to Attlee’s vision of a ‘social britain’ prior to the 1945 general election.

Jeremy Corbyn described Labour’s ideas as “the new common sense of our time”; Open Labour endorses the policy outlined in his speech as commonsense socialism which we’ve been advocating for 3 years. We dearly hope the Labour Party can unify around this project. In the words of Jo Cox, “We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

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