We apologise for the delay in publishing this, but conference itself prevented writing time and we are still recovering from the merriment. Unlike some other well-known Labour-supporting blogs, we regretfully do not have a team of paid staff writers. Maybe one day.
The 2017 Labour Party Conference was a surreal affair. The party has more than doubled in size since the conference was held there in 2013. The queues to enter the main exhibition centre often stretched for several hundred metres. The parallel Momentum conference, ‘The World Transformed’, was also oversubscribed.
Last year’s party conference followed hot on the heels of a failed leadership challenge by Owen Smith and mass shadow cabinet resignations from Labour MPs. The press and most MPs alike were understandably doom-laden about dire opinion polling and the expectation that Labour would be annihilated at the next election.
We now know that such portents were ill-founded. Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election will go down as one of the biggest miscalculations in British electoral history. Her choice to go to the polls backfired so spectacularly that many in the Labour Party now claim our surprisingly strong showing (albeit a third general election loss in succession) was effectively a victory.
In this post-truth era, such misnomers are dangerous. Nevertheless, the leader of UNITE and Labour’s biggest financial backer, Len McCluskey, told this party conference that Labour had actually won the election. So, when Jeremy Corbyn rose to give his leader’s address on Wednesday, it was no surprise that he was greeted with a several-minute standing ovation and Labour delegates chanting his name.
We should be delighted that Labour is not in fact doomed. We should be equally delighted that the Tories are on the ropes. But the Greeks were right to say that hubris is always followed by nemesis. Labour has an unfortunate habit of luxuriating in complacency, as the ‘one more heave’ strategy in both 1992 and 2015 demonstrated.
Should we go into the next election with such an attitude – the like of which was ubiquitous at this conference – we will risk another defeat. There will be no point in fighting the 2017 General Election all over again. The Tories will not be so stupid as to call another election in short order. They will drag this out. And the next election will be fought in a post-Brexit and, God forbid, recession-fuelled era.
As for the Labour ‘moderates’, this conference was a confusing affair. The man viewed by many as the closest thing Labour’s right has to a saviour, Tom Watson, gave a speech adorned with praise for Jeremy Corbyn and was himself seen chanting the Labour Leader’s name in the build-up to his speech. Some have called such actions a “surrender”.
Such a characterisation seems simplistic. Labour’s ‘moderates’ have been comprehensively beaten in the open field. They will now need to reevaluate their strategy entirely. This website will soon offer some serious suggestions about how this might be done, starting with refusing to talk about moderation.
This politicking must be placed in context, alongside darker internal matters. While it is indeed welcome that the Jewish Labour Movement’s rule change was passed by conference, many of the hours and events preceding it were laced with antisemitism.
See Len McCluskey’s own choice of conference activities here for an inkling into some of the unseemly stuff that was going on. In our next piece, we will also share some of the vile antisemitic literature that was being handed out at the conference. You may wish to avert your gaze.
Who knows where the Labour Party will be in a year’s time? Only a fool would make political predictions these days. For their part, Jeremy Corbyn and his closest allies predict an imminent general election. Such an eventuality would indeed favour Labour. This is precisely why it seems unlikely, but we live in interesting times.