UK Politics

A Tale Of Two Conferences – The Labour Party in Liverpool

Barely twenty-four hours after Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Labour’s leader, party general-secretary Iain McNicol – suspected by some Corbynites of attempting to rig the leadership election – took the stage to deliver his annual report to the party conference. Someone at the back of the hall shouted ‘Resign’.

It was an inauspicious start to a conference that was supposed to showcase a reunited Labour Party. On the platform in the main hall, speaker after speaker stressed the need for a united party. Veteran MP Paul Flynn said the past twelve months should be buried in a concrete tomb, never to be unearthed. Moderate MPs queued up to announce that they had no intention of leaving the party. Many used the words of the late Jo Cox – so tragically, brutally murdered in June – to sum up their theme: ‘We have more in common than that which divides us.’

Sitting in the conference hall, you could almost believe it.

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UK Politics

Owen Smith: The Anti-Corbyn

‘It’s a binary choice isn’t it – Owen or bust.’ These were the words of one Labour member when I asked him if he’d been persuaded by Owen Smith’s performance in Hammersmith on Tuesday night. It seems to be the view of many party members and supporters, although the binary is usually framed the other way – Jeremy Corbyn against ‘Not Jeremy Corbyn’, with Smith having no real identity of his own.

This characterisation is common to both the Anyone But Corbyn crowd and Corbyn’s own diehard supporters. The former think Corbyn is so hopeless that their priority is getting him out, not getting Smith in, while the latter claim Smith is an unprincipled Blairite sellout and everything Corbyn is not.

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UK Politics

Preaching to the Choir – Jeremy Corbyn in Highbury Fields

The few hundred people who gathered in Highbury Fields to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak yesterday evening carried many banners and placards. Both the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party were well represented; Momentum – Corbyn’s personal shock troops – clustered around the old fire engine that served as a stage; one man waved a UNISON flag. One group, however, seemed conspicuously absent – the Labour Party.

Certainly, there were Labour members there – I stood next to a large group of them from Crouch End – but visually the party was absent. There were no Labour banners, no placards, not even a solitary rose on the banner that adorned the fire engine. It simply read ‘Jeremy Corbyn. Straight Talking. Honest Politics.’ It was an odd look for a rally that was ostensibly part of a campaign for the Labour leadership.

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