First up: thanks go to Mother Nature for kindly obliging with the weather. Any conference in Brighton (and I’ve been to my share) is lovely if you’re experiencing it in the context of an Indian summer – it’s less pleasant when you’re trying to get back to your hotel room in Hove whilst rain and gale force winds are attempting to seriously impede your progress.
I expected to come to Brighton to find a party split into two warring sides, with incidents of flare up; instead I found an uneasy truce. The right of the party are well and truly beat, for now at least, and they hope that qualifying bit comes good at some point in the future, whenever that may be.
I chaired two events while down here. At one, Maurice Glasman spoke about the centre of the Labour Party being out of touch with people on the ground and the working class vote drifting away from his party. Maurice’s politics are not mine, but I have a great deal of respect for him. The other event was about the Nordic model; all I’ll say on that is that if Stephen Kinnock was Labour leader, I’d be tempted to join Labour.
While I’ve seen no punchups in the conference bars, that doesn’t mean people are happy. In fact, a lot of Labour people are existentially depressed about what’s happening to their party at the moment. The corporates who came to Brighton this year might not come to Liverpool next year after McDonnell’s speech in which certain companies were named and “shamed”. Usually, shadow chancellor speeches at conference are partly for those in the hall, but mostly aimed at the people at home, with carefully crafted sound bites meant for the evening news. There was none of that in McDonnell’s speech – it was directed 100% at the Labour faithful. Some Labourites might think that’s a good thing. Time will tell.
So there have been no fireworks this year in Brighton. But one senses it’s coming. Next year in Liverpool looks to be the one to watch. When the left of the party are more firmly embedded and the Right realises it’s now fight or die. Corbyn has said there won’t be deselections and I think he’s being sincere when he says that – but the hard nuts around him aren’t going miss the chance to remake the party in their image when boundary changes make reselection a necessity anyhow.
That’s the conclusion, I suppose: tune in next year. Not what I expected – there’s a lot of that in politics at the moment.