Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Jamie's Blog: Labour Conference 2012 Summary

Bit behind with the blogging it's fair to say...

Luckily I feel I have been let off the hook due to Spikes regular, informative and passionate updates from #lab12. Rather than imitate what he has already said I thought I would take you through some of the general themes and events I came across that I found particularly interesting since day 1:

  1. Ed Balls gave an incredible speech on Monday which conjured up the spirit of 1945 and reinforced the position of our economic policy: that every time in our history when faced with a crisis of this magnitude we have needed a long term plan for growth with Keynesian stimulus, that can fill the gap in demand and solve the 'paradox of thrift'. It is fair to say that Ed Balls is not prepared to announce a 'New Deal' or an Atlee- esque NHS moment, but he is reinforcing the message that the coalition is withdrawing funds from the economy too fast and has strangled confidence. He mentioned how we should use the recent 4G windfall to start building houses again and how he would introduce a zero based budget review after the election to re assess the necessity of every pound spent across the government. Logical stuff and a very impressed auditorium laughed it up when he declared we had 'Butch Cassidy and the Flat line Kid' in government and how the prime minister is so weak he is unprepared to sack Mitchell and has even given Hunt a promotion. Larry Elliot from the guardian has his analysis here.
  2. The Social Market Foundation held a really informative fringe about how a next Labour government should build a sustainable framework for higher education funding. Opinions ranged from those who thought that more market could be an option and help social mobility (not a fan) to one member of the panel (memorising names not a strength) who thought that the current system was fine but fee's should be reduced to a cap of 6,000 a year (which by my understanding is unofficially where Ed has positioned himself). There was of course large support for the opinion that the market has not worked and the experiment should end as more and more students are now turning down university or choosing degrees based on price rather than the best one for their future.
  3. Equalities Citizenship and Constitutional Reform: Extremely interesting policy seminar which opened the floor to delegates, many of which had stories to tell about real life implications for those who are disabled, from an ethnic minority, have faced gender discrimination etc. Naturally the seminar had no conclusions but produced many different idea's about what the party can do with regards to political correctness, positive discrimination, equal marriages, improved benefits for the disabled etc once the stagnation of the Conservative government is over. 
  4. A fringe meeting with the Big Innovation Centre Chaired by observer columnist Will Hutton was entertaining. It is a relatively new movement that aims to put innovation and an industrial strategy at the heart of the next labour project in order to enable us to be world leaders in internet business and green sectors among others. I won't waffle too much but i would strongly advise visiting their website as it is all about creating a strategy beyond cutting the deficit and coupling business and innovation with the long term needs of the nation.
  5. One major highlight that I was not expecting at all and probably my favourite fringe meeting of the conference was one held in a pub (not the reason why) about progress in the north and exploring whether regional or northern devolution was the answer to their lack of representation in central government and other issues. It's a pretty radical reform which was one reason it was exciting, but also rather than being a fringe meeting with think tanks or political celebrities it was full of northerners who were so genuinely passionate about the subject it was truly inspirational to be there. It was real, interesting, something I agree with and also a group of people and an area of the country who have complete reason to feel let down by policy makers of all colours over thirty or more years, but rather than being disillusioned or fed up they decide to fight, debate and campaign about their issues through politics and through the labour party.Great stuff! The Hannah Mitchell Foundation.
  6. Ed Miliband: future Prime Minister? It's possible and few thought it would be at this point which is why the party is in such jubilant mood. I won't babble on this as you've all seen the speech and read about it plenty by now. You've all 'seen it, heard it, felt it' and how incredible it was. One thing you may not have seen however was the Q & A he did the day after. This was interesting because many have pointed at the two as the moment he found his voice etc. He was incredibly witty, comfortable and demonstrated his sharp intellect but I don't think this was the 'moment he found his voice'. This has been happening for a while in my opinion: standing on the right side of most major national issues (phone hacking), good performances in PMQ's, and many different meetings and interviews the party faithful have seen but others haven't. My point is he has been finding his feet and growing into the role for a while but this was the moment it really sent shock waves around the media and hit home with the public. This moment was inevitable in my eyes and is the first step of many where he starts to become a bigger and bigger public figure before the election. 

Just a thought about the man I think will be prime minister. I doubt tomorrow's 'incompetent, out of touch, u-turning, pledge breaking, make it up as you go along, write it on the back of an envolope, miserable shower of a prime minister' will provide an equal showing.

I had an amazing time at conference and thank you very much to all the CLP who were kind enough to let me go when I'm sure everyone would have liked to. My blogging was a bit delayed but you can either blame the poor internet connection in my hotel and the exhibition or the fact that there was loads and loads of free wine at practically every fringe. Your choice.

I leave thinking one thing...with the right choices and plenty of hard work, we could really be in government in 2015.

Spike's Blog: Ed's Speech and #lab12

Ed Miliband’s speech, in my opinion, gives us (Labour, but also the country as a whole) what we need right now: a credible vision for the future – how we get out of recession, and how we create a sustainable model for the economy for the years to come. We need to reshape 
ourselves into ‘one nation’ – a task for which Labour is possibly the only party capable of leading the way. The Conservatives have certainly forfeited the right to this principle, even though it was Disraeli who first made it popular as a rallying cry 140 years ago.

Half way through the parliament (and 4-and-a-half years into the UK recession), I think this comes at just the right time.

It was a powerful speech, giving a little more about Ed himself and his family background, setting out the vision and philosophy, and ending with some specific policy commitments which flow out of this. The biggest, most enthusiastic applause came for the way he ‘nailed’ the Tories for their utter incompetence in government over the past 2-and-a-half years… which just seems to be getting worse as time goes 

What also came across was Ed’s confidence – personally as leader of the Party; and politically that Labour is going to win the next general election. “The next Labour Government will end the free market experiment in the NHS” was an example of this, and one that I particularly 

 So another big ‘thumbs up’ from the conference, which I am sure will help us to take another step forward in our journey back to power. 

 By the way, I was very proud to see our Windsor delegate Jamie on the platform behind Ed during the speech!


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Spike's Blog: Party Conference Day 2

Themes which came out in the Rebuilding The Economy debate: 'Certainty' and 'stability' - these are things which a (Labour) govt can provide, but the Coalition is not.  They are vital to enable people and companies to plan and make investments for the future, which is why the Coalition 'shambles' is having such a negative impact on the economy today.  Examples kept cropping up of this affecting such topics as: green energy, public transport, recycling, food production.

A second common thread was that even though Labour is not in government yet, there are still practical things we can do to make things better for the British public.  Interesting ideas included: a new Switch Together initiative to drive down domestic energy prices; and supporting food banks (scandalous though it is that these are now needed by so many people) via fareshare.org.uk.  More details will be coming out, I am sure.

The billed 'bust up' between the Shadow Chancellor and the Unions turned out to be something of a "love fest" in the end, underlining the drive for unity in the Party.  Great speeches were made by both Len McCluskey of Unite and Ed Balls (the best I have seen from him so far).  Ed asked, will history recall us as the people who wasted the talents of a generation of young people; dismantled the NHS, and so on?  Or the ones who rose to the challenge and built a better, fairer Britain.

Quite rightly he is still talking about making tough decisions, and he invoked the memory of the 1945-1951 Labour Government which continued rationing, and introduced prescription charges. But pointedly he steered away from public sector pay freeze as one of the decisions he had in mind.  It will be interesting to see what the media made of it.

Ps. Some humour: "Butch Cameron & the Flatline Kid" - Ed Balls' new one-liner put down for Cameron and Osborne - after Cameron had said the Shadow Cabinet was not 'butch' enough.  Presumably 40% of its members being women is partly what gives him this impression.  Ed mocked Cameron for telling Caroline Spelman she was "too old" (age 54) to be in the cabinet, then replacing her with a 56-year old man!


Monday, 1 October 2012

Jamie Curtis: Party Conference Blog

Day 1

Just sitting in the conference coffee shop watching John Prescott do a rather comical (intentionally on this occasion) interview for someone. One favourite line coming from his performance is 'here i am, oldest pleb in the business'. Its taking quite a few takes. Anyway thats today, yesterday...
I arrived around 14.00 and once i managed past the protesters and rigorous G4S security i started walking around the exhibition. As a first timer here you could just tell it is going to be an exciting, interesting and thought provoking few days with hopefully a truly inspirational hour or so on Tuesday that will send shock waves through the media and rival parties. Although there were some stands that did manicures and sold cuff links the vast majority were advertising causes such as nuclear disarmament, defeating inequality, a greener Britain and many different solutions to the key theme of our party in this age: lets get Britain working again.

After some time in the main hall and generally looking around getting a feel for the place. Me and Matthew headed over to the south east reception and met spike along with the various other delegates we knew or were about to meet. Harriet Harman was the first big beast to arrive and give her speech. She spoke about how the shadow cabinet would mentor 'MP's to be' and that no one in a safe seat should feel comfortable until they have gotten someone near them in a marginal elected. Inspiring stuff and exactly what the grass roots need to hear to know they have the backing of there leaders.

Then came Ed Miliband. The dry wit got us of to a start: 'you know this is my favourite region in the party' to laughter. 'but don't tell anyone else'. This is the second south east gathering i have attended with Ed speaking and i do feel we hear something particularly pertinent that he perhaps doesn't deliver to other regions. He constantly speaks of how the south have different traditions to the north of course, but the dividing lines laid out by the Tories that the south are aspirational and the north are layabouts is rubbish, and in fact values such as hard work, compassion, fairness and equality of opportunity to name a few are ones shared by the whole of Britain and it is our job to communicate that to the south.

Ed Balls delivered some funny stories about his experiences with Blair and Brown and then proceeded to talk about how the con-dem economic plan is failing. Won't waffle on about that too much but will tomorrow after he has given his speech today.

The final piece of the night was a complimentary curry courtesy of RSPCA. I am completely unashamed to say that animal cruelty has never been something that particularly grabbed my interest (although I am against it) and I absolutely went for the free curry. But it was thoroughly enjoyable and incredibly interesting hearing about the successes they have had including banning live exporting and the challenges they still have to come. Fox hunting was of course part of the speech. The RSPCA seemed happy with us on that one starting their address with 'we're not supposed to back any political part but...'


Spike Humphrey: Party Conference Day 1

Main theme for me from Day 1 is Labour is a UNITED party.  Contrast that with the Coalition who are falling out like petty children, and the 2 constituent parties which are both starting to fight amongst themselves, and both whispering about changing leader.

In my opinion, Ed Balls seems to want to talk up the DISunity in the Labour movement, by saying he will "talk tough" on public sector pay and spending cuts.  I imagine he thinks this will make him look 'credible' on the economy, and capable of making tough, unpopular decisions.  Personally, I think he has picked the wrong issue to do that.  The failure of the Government's cuts and pay freeze strategy is starting to make the Tories look incompetent on the economy.  This should be our focus - driving home that message... not promising to do more of the same but in a slightly watered-down version.

Labour wants to build its image at local level via campaigning on issues that matter to the community.  We saw concrete examples of how branches and CLPs had been building relationships with local people; starting or joining campaigns; and being seen to empower people to take action.  Our Heatherwood campaign feels like a superb example of doing all of these things, so that is a great boost to us in Windsor (and Bracknell) CLP, not to mention Ascot branch.

At the SE Region event in the evening, we had rousing speeches from Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman and Ed Balls.  All emphasised the South East is critical for Labour to get back into Government at the next General Election.  We will target key marginals in the region, with each one having a Shadow Cabinet 'sponsor' who will do all it takes to ensure Labour regains them in 2015 (or whenever the election is called).  Reading West is one of the targets close to us, and I believe we will want to support them (and Reading East as well) when the time comes.