Blogspot: Reflections on the Labour Conference
Politics / Thu 27th Sep 2018 pm30 12:07pm
By Gavin Callaghan
Leader of Basildon Labour Group
LABOUR’S Conference is over for another year and the message coming from every fringe meeting and speech is clear; Labour is preparing for government whilst Theresa May is preparing for retirement.
Or at least that’s what Labour want the public to believe.
The reality remains that the headlines continue to be dogged by talks of splits, anti Semitism, renationalisation and general strikes. The shadow cabinet largely remains a cesspit for the PLP’s talentless and over promoted with only a few notable exceptions including our own Baroness Angela Smith. And Labour’s Local Councillors are set for a 12 month war with the party’s NEC over a democracy review that aims to take power away from councillors and give it to people in the party who have no idea how the town halls work. The nasty and aggressive side of the left wing continues to bubble under the surface and the cult of Corbyn is now entrenched in the party.
Indeed the party’s machine under new leadership looks weaker than ever when it comes to combating these continuous own goals. But they don’t care because their positions in the movement are now solidified. For at least another few months.
Unlike 12 months ago, the party understands that there isn’t likely to be a general election until 2022. Corbyn won’t be leader. That’s why they have used conference to promote John McDonnell and Rebecca Long Bailey far more. Neither has Corbyn’s charisma but they are true believers in the radical left wing project.
McDonnell wants us to believe that the worse things get domestically in the short term, the more radical his Labour government will be in the long term. Some might accept that as true. Others might think it beyond crass for Labour to be almost willing the destruction of societies and the wasting of talent and opportunity for people in order to fit an ideological shift in British politics that has never won popular support in sufficient numbers to win a general election, even after times of war and economic depression.
However, if you can find it within yourself to put all of that to one side and look beyond the hyped up rhetoric of Corbyn’s colonels, progress has been made on some of the key issues that many in the party such as myself, have been calling for in order to win seats in south Essex at local and national level.
Thurrock and Basildon didn’t vote for Gordon Brown when he shifted to the left of New Labour. They then regarded Ed Miliband as a step to the left too far and Corbyn was rejected last May. The way to win these people back is to offer sensible solutions from the centre-left that they can rally behind.
Scratch the surface of conference and that is the emerging story.
This year has seen little talk of student tuition fees or attracting young voters. The attention has shifted to middle England and older voters. From increasing free childcare to help for young parents starting their families, through to guarantees on the triple lock pension, there is finally a recognition that white, blue collar, older voters are the key to Corbyn occupying Downing Street.
That is why Labour has announced its plans to lift the ban on councils borrowing money to build council houses. Ask any councillor in Thurrock and Basildon and regardless of the colour of their rosette they’ll agree that this policy change is a massive win for local government. In 1968 the country was building in the region of 480,000 homes a year of which around 120,000 were being built by Councils. Last year the total number of new builds nationally was 115,000 with council-owned companies barely building many more than 4,000 of those.
In order to solve the housing crisis, reduce waiting times, end over occupancy in temporary accommodation, increase competition in house prices and rental prices to drive down the need for massive deposits and massive increases in rent, this policy is vital. Labour’s commitment to it should be celebrated and draws a line in the sand that clearly says we are serious about building whilst the Conservatives continue to roll over to developers.
Next, it was announced that we will increase the amount of funding for early years education and free childcare. This year OFSTED indicated that the number of 4 year olds that were starting school in September who couldn’t read, write or who were not toilet trained, has risen drastically compared to a decade ago. With changes to work patterns and the way people live their lives, greater flexibility for families in early years education and care for their children, which is free and not breaking the bank for household incomes each month, is a welcome step.
There were more announcements but these show the shift in policy direction back towards a sensible centre-left solution that proved so popular in south Essex under “Voldemort”. (That’s how you refer to Tony Blair now in the Labour Party. Can you imagine Manchester United fans distancing themselves from Sir Alex Ferguson? Madness but sadly still a reality of contemporary Labour politics)
The trick for Labour is to now box smart. The next local and general elections in Thurrock and Basildon will be about more than just Brexit. Regardless of what the ideologues would have you believe. Crime, transport, roads, social care, schools and local plans will continue to dog the thinking of the electorate and they will want answers from politicians on these. Yet if the next election is a two-horse race in South Essex as I predict it will be, then clearly Labour has grasped far more quickly than the Conservatives, that a wider domestic political agenda is needed to win support.
This could be the advantage Labour needs to win. Now Corbyn’s team must get a grip of the own goals in order to ensure these new centrist policies get a fair hearing and we win seats in south Essex once again.
Cllr Gavin Callaghan
Leader of the Basildon Labour Group
Can you believe this nonsense ? He's convinced himself that the Marxists are the new Messiah. Let's wait and see.
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