By Campaign Agent Ethan Moxam
The 2018 Annual Labour Conference made waves across Britain’s political landscape this week, with Brexit taking centre stage. Delegates for Labour’s annual conference gathered in Liverpool, which revealed Labour’s stance on Brexit along with new radical policies proposed by senior members.
The conference first began grabbing headlines on Tuesday when Labour delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Brexit policy to hold a second referendum. This came shortly after Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer stated in his speech: “Nobody is ruling out remain as an option”. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn had previously ruled out the possibility of a second referendum, but said he would respect the result of a vote.
However, in an interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn refused to say which side he would campaign for in the event of another Brexit vote. While the remainers of the party were cheering from the rafters, it has left many MPs and members concerned that the possibility of another referendum would result in Labour being punished by those who voted Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
Other highlights from the conference include the speech by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, claiming Labour would scrap universal credit. This comes from feedback he received during a meeting with job centre workers.
The review is being headed by Shadow works and pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood. Ms Greenwood said in her speech to the Conference to stop the roll out of the controversial new benefit in order to “fix its many flaws” and prevent future distress.
The shadow education secretary Angela Rayner claimed that Labour will be committed to ending the free school programme, and halting further academisation, in her keynote speech. Ms Rayner described the current system as “not fit for purpose” as the free school programme is “inefficient”. Rayner then hit out at the huge salaries of executives in large academy chains, which she said has led to local authorities being cut out of decisions. She continued, saying that Labour will allow local authorities to intervene where academy chains fail, in order to stop the so-called “Zombie schools”.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, made an all-encompassing and charismatic speech which was well received across the conference floor. The speech has been interpreted by many as pitch for leadership. Ms Thornberry compared anti-Semites within the party to fascists and urged for her fellow MPs and delegates to act now. On Foreign affairs, Thornberry stated that under Jeremy Corbyn the UK will “lead the world in promoting human rights”. She continued that Labour will reform the arms trade, support refugees and pursue world denuclearisation.
The conference came to a grand close with a speech from the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The speech ran for more than an hour and focussed primarily on Brexit. Mr Corbyn promised to end the “greed is good” culture of current politics, and said that a Labour government will bring about a “green jobs revolution”.
The Labour leader made a promise to the Jewish community to continue to fight antisemitism both from Labour and wider society “with every breath I possess” as “we are your ally”. On Brexit, Corbyn has said that Labour MPs will vote down Theresa May’s chequers plan, if that plan is the basis of the final Brexit deal with Brussels and she refuses his proposition of keeping Britain in a customs union. This is an attempt to force a general election within months, if the prime minister cannot pass the plan through parliament.
However Corbyn also said that if the government can draw up a “sensible” deal, then Labour would vote for it, provided it was on Labour’s terms. This would require the deal to include a customs union with no hard border in Ireland. The deal would also require for jobs to be protected, along with workers’ rights, and environmental and consumer standards. To thunderous applause Corbyn concluded, that if the government cannot negotiate such a deal “then you need to make way for a party that can”.
Sources and Further Reading
Ashley Cowburn, ‘Labour commits to ending free schools programme, announces Angela Rayner’, The Independent (25 September 2018)
Brian Wheeler, ‘Labour could scrap Universal Credit - John McDonnell’, BBC (25 September, 2018)
Dan Sabbagh, ‘Jeremy Corbyn calls for election if MPs vote down May's Brexit deal’, The Guardian (26 September 2018)
Dan Sabbagh, ‘Conference at a glance: Thornberry's speech and a dropped plan for a female deputy leader’, The Guardian (26 September, 2018)
‘Labour is 'ready' to govern, Jeremy Corbyn tells party conference’, BBC (26 September 2018)
‘Labour conference: Members vote to keep referendum option open’, BBC (25 September 2018)
Laura Keunssberg, ‘So where does Labour now stand on Brexit?’, BBC (25 September 2018)
Image: Plashing Vole @flickr