I’m heading to Brighton for Labour conference on Sunday. It is my tenth in a row. Despite having never been a member or even seriously considered becoming one, I always enjoy Labour conference, every year. It is younger and cooler than any of the other conferences – even the if politics and the policy ideas tend to range from laughable to terrifyingly awful most of the time.
This is the first year in a long time that people in Westminster aren’t talking about how there will be fights at the bar and the like; I suppose there are only so many times you can cry wolf and watch the tumbleweeds that follow. This has me thinking that perhaps this is the year that there really will be fights in the bar – John Reid and John McDonnell rolling about in the Hilton Metropole lobby together – before remembering what Labour conference is actually like.
Some of the pre-game stuff is interesting this time. Labour are obsessed with the Lib Dems once again, unable to stop talking about the yellows for more than three minutes at a time. This sort of thing never spells good fortune for Labour. It doesn’t necessarily mean great things ahead for the Lib Dems, as 2015 demonstrated, but Labour being preoccupied with the Liberal Democrats is always a sure sign that things aren’t going to plan for the party of Attlee and Bevan.
Emily Thornberry has today compared the Lib Dems to the Taliban for their stance on Brexit. There is hyperbole, there is insane ranting, then there is comparing the Lib Dems to the Taliban. Just think about it on a basic, pragmatic level: if I had a lawless country filled with psychopathic warlords I wanted to take on, Lib Dem activists would be very near the bottom of the list of folks I’d call upon to back me up. Then again, I was once on a panel at Labour conference years and years ago with Emily Thornberry in which the punchline of a joke she told depended on you finding the idea of murdering Lib Dem activists, if only there was the time and space to do so, appropriate joke fodder, so perhaps the shadow foreign secretary knows something I don’t.
Corbyn is apparently worrying about what the activists do on Brexit – they could try and get something passed on the floor of the conference that spells out Labour becoming an explicitly Remain party. Then he would have to openly ignore them instead of just tacitly doing so, which could cause even Labour Jesus problems. If I were him, I wouldn’t sweat it: love of Corbyn always trumps everything for Labour members, including keeping the NHS afloat and people in the north having jobs. They’ll take Corbyn’s micro steps away from Brexit-land in hand and back away from conflict, I reckon.
Then again, like I was saying before, perhaps this is the Labour conference when things actually do kick off. With the Lib Dems overtaking them in a poll, not for the first time this year either, Labour have to consider heavily what they are all about. Resting on the fact that over half the country despises Boris Johnson isn’t enough of a plan. You’d think that losing three general elections in a row and generally doing poorly at local elections for the past half a decade would have made them realise this, but sadly for them, no.
I’m looking forward to Brighton, even if it’s supposed to chuck it down the whole time Labour is there. Let’s have a drink if you’re there too. I’ll be the guy with the bucket of popcorn at the back.