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Labour Party Conference: A government in waiting….?

Posted 26/09/2018

by Zak Deakin

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Labour’s party conference was supposed to be about demonstrating their readiness for government… and pushing a weak Conservative government ever closer to another general election. While they may have convinced themselves that this is the case, have they convinced the country?

Despite Theresa May’s troubles in her attempts to secure a Brexit deal and hold her party together, Labour have failed to forge ahead in the polls.

Their inability to force home this advantage is in large part down to their own divisions. While oppositions on the cusp of power are normally a picture of unity and solidarity, the same cannot be said of the Labour Party at present – as evidenced by Luciana Berger needing a police escort into her own party’s conference in the city where she is an MP.

Instead Labour has been hamstrung by its own internal battles and arguments; whether it be the long-running row over anti-Semitism, disagreements over the party’s Brexit position or, the growing influence of the left of the party. The consequence is a policy vacuum and a lack of vision for what a Labour government would mean.

While the announcement at conference of a new Planning Commission is progress, it just kicks the issue into the long grass. Not the position we need from a government in waiting. The commission will consult with residents, planners, local authorities and developers from across the country, before reporting its proposals in the autumn of 2019 – with Labour saying it will help them to deliver a ‘root and branch’ reform of the planning system.

It is welcome that the party is open to engaging with people from across the property and development sector, but I would suggest that the overriding response is likely to be one of caution against completely ripping up the current system and starting all over again.

In a way the Planning Commission proposal is not too dissimilar from the other, internal policy decisions made this week; the compromises over the party’s Brexit position and the future selection of parliamentary candidates. They are decisions symptomatic of a party stuck in rhetoric – while they fall over themselves trying to please everybody, in reality they just avoid having to find solutions until some point in the future.

This conference was an opportunity for Labour to nip internal disputes in the bud and to put forward clear and comprehensive policy statements on the big issues the country faces. Instead the wait goes on, and many will be reserving judgement as to whether the party is genuinely a government in waiting.