Labour’s Annual Conference in Brighton showed that it’s time for grown-up politics, to build a better, more caring and prosperous society based on the values of decency, justice and equality.
In his first Conference speech as Leader of the Labour Party on Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn MP set out Labour’s alternative to the Tories’ failed austerity, by investing for the future and giving economic security to families. But he also set out his commitment to a new way of doing politics, with real debate:
"I am not imposing leadership lines. I don’t believe anyone has a monopoly on wisdom and ideas – we all have ideas and a vision of how things can be better. I want open debate. I will listen to everyone. I firmly believe leadership is listening. We will reach out to our new members and supporters. Involve people in our debates on policy and then our Party as a whole will decide.“
On Monday, John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, outlined Labour’s plans to tackle the deficit through growth, not through cuts to the most vulnerable. Labour’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson MP, closed Conference with an inspiring roll-call of the last Labour Government’s achievements, and called on the party to “get back out into the country and start talking to people” to win again in 2020.
The Conference also heard from Angela Eagle MP, Chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum, who spoke about the changes made to Labour’s policy development process during the last parliament:
“I am proud of the changes that we developed for the National Policy Forum. It led to a better way of working. We improved the way people could participate in the policy making process. We made it more open and available for members.
“We developed new innovations such as the Your Britain website, where people could make submissions directly to their NPF members and engage in conversations about what other members and supporters had submitted, too.
“340,000 people took part in our policy development process by interacting with Your Britain. In a single lunch hour, 1,200 members of our movement logged on to Your Britain to share their views and help to shape Labour’s policy programme.”
But she also talked about going further to make the process even more inclusive, open and democratic:
“The National Policy Forum needs to evolve so we can make it even better. We need to preserve the best of it, members getting involved and shaping our policy, but look again at what we can do to take it forwards. So I am today announcing that the NEC has agreed to hold a review of how we make policy as a party to make it more inclusive, open and democratic.”
Ms Eagle invited members and supporters to take part, and tell the party “what they think works well at present, and what doesn’t work so well“ about the policy development process. More details of the review will be announced soon.
The Conference also saw lively debates on austerity and public services, employment rights, Europe, housing, the TV license fee, the NHS, mental health and the refugee crisis. Hundreds of delegates also took part in Policy Seminars to discuss issues with Shadow Cabinet members. At a special event for new members, dubbed ‘policy speed-dating’, dozens of recent recruits pitched their policy ideas to shadow ministers.