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View from conference

Will Sherlock, Associate Director

Labour’s leadership question is settled but the standoff between the pro and anti-Corbyn camps continues. However, this is not simply a battle between Corbyn’s army of membership supporters and moderate MPs. Divisions have surfaced in the last 24 hours in surprising circumstances.

The action taken by Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser, Seamus Milne to water down sections of Clive Lewis’ speech maintaining Labour’s commitment to Trident has baffled many, especially as this was done at the last minute by amending the autocue. This decision has not only angered Lewis, one of the few MPs to support Corbyn, but also served to take coverage away from the Shadow Chancellor’s speech which should have been the story of the day.

Labour’s commitment to ban fracking also earned a stern rebuke from the GMB union who stated  the UK’s gas supply would become dependent on ‘henchmen, hangmen and headchoppers.’ The GMB are becoming increasingly vocal about Corbyn’s leadership, highlighting the fractious divisions across the party. To a certain degree this will provide a counterweight to the more pro-Corbyn Unite union.

Meanwhile the moderates have strengthened their position on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC). Two additional representatives (Welsh and Scottish) will now sit on the NEC tipping the balance in favour of moderate voices who now stand a better chance of blocking pro-Corbyn proposals designed to tighten his grip on the party machinery. Moves to reduce the number of MP nominations required to become a candidate in a future leadership contest are less likely to succeed as a result of the change. Normally this would be noted by only a handful of Labour Party anoraks. However it is a sign of how internally focused Labour is that such reforms are deemed significant.

There is a general feeling that stalemate is the only way the party can function in the short term, while a catastrophic general election defeat is the necessary answer to all of the party’s problems. Many moderate MPs want Corbyn to own this defeat, which may require known critics taking frontbench jobs again. We are therefore likely to see others follow Jonathan Reynolds MP who has joined the shadow Treasury team.

Many will hope that Sadiq Khan’s warning this afternoon that Labour achieves nothing without winning power is something that Corbyn will respond to in his speech tomorrow. The last 24 hours suggests this will be difficult.

Key speech

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan addressed Labour Conference today in what was a very well received speech. Khan focused on the issue of power, with every policy issue underlined buy him saying that without being in power, Labour can make no difference; Khan told conference that ‘Labour out of power will never be good enough.’ Khan highlighted the important roles of local councils and Metro Mayors across the UK, saying devolved powers can be used for good and to enact Labour policies.

Khan used his speech to address of social integration, adding that under the Conservtaive Government hate crime has risen and that the future of EU citizens has become a ‘bargaining chip’. Khan finished his speech by stressing the need for a Labour Government in Downing Street.

Housing

  • Khan said that under the Conservative Governments, the number of affordable homes built has fallen and that cost of rent has increased, as well as the number of homeless people.
  • Khan said that with Labour in power, new housing policies can be introduced such as :
  • ‘Homes for Londoners’ to increase the number of affordable homes built
  • New social letting schemes to ‘stop renter being ripped off’
  • London Living Rent to help young people get on the property ladder
  • Making tackling homelessness a priority

Air Quality

  • Khan said that with the Labour Party in power, new policies can be introduced such as the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone stretching from the North circular to the South circular.’
  • Khan also highlighted the importance of making resources available for the creating the first clean bus areas in Britain to ensure, from 2018, Britain only buys clean buses.

Social Equality

  • Khan said that under the Conservative Government, social inequality is rising. He cited the introduction of more grammar schools as deepening inequality amongst children.
  • He also added that a person’s prospects can still be determined by their gender.

Coming up tomorrow

Speeches from:

  • Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham (AM)
  • Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon (AM)
  • Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn (2.30pm)
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