Walking out into the autumn sunshine of the Liverpool dockside, there was a great temptation to feel optimistic; that finally the Labour Party might start doing its job, opposing the Tories, formulating new socialist policies and forging a campaign to win the next election. As always, however, there is a massive BUT. Although speaker after speaker called for unity behind Jeremy Corbyn, to great applause, it was immediately apparent that those speakers, and most of the platform party joining the applause, did not include the people causing the problems. It seemed that there was a separate conference going on away from the bright lights. Occasionally one or more of the revolting MPs could be seen scurrying past, not engaging with the other conference goers and intent on their own dark designs. The parties within a party, the voices of the hard right, Progress and LabourFirst, were doing their own thing; my moles could tell me little except that they were not talking about unifying behind Jeremy Corbyn!
There were two notable exceptions; two speakers at the main conference who did not join wholeheartedly in the calls for unity. Sadiq Khan made a speech extolling the virtues of Sadiq Khan, ending up by striding about the platform waving his arms like a pop star. At one point I thought he was about to do a crowd dive. He is charming, charismatic and a good speaker. I do not trust him an inch. In that same vein Tom Watson had, by virtue of his position, to be on the platform a lot of the time. He also made a powerful speech. Not so much of the pop star though, despite the Elvis Costello glasses. His favourite selfie, staring out with what I suppose is meant to be a steely-eyed glare, was all over the place. Both talked about, indeed repeated endlessly, a mantra about power. It was good to be told that we had to be in power to enact policies, I doubt if many of the audience had realised that. In their cases it seemed a blatant pitch for support in getting themselves and their chums some personal power; after all everyone knows that the one essential for getting into power is a united party so they could not have been calling for the party as currently constituted to get into power but rather by hanging on to their privileged coat tails.
There are signs that a significant number of the dissident MPs may be prepared to return to the fold, but for some of them that would be very unlikely. There is far too much money from various assorted millionaires and big global corporations, along with massive support from the likes of Murdoch and Harmsworth who see the role of the Labour Party as being the cuddly face of neoliberalism, for those occasions when the brutal face which is the Tories overdoes it and leaves the long suffering British public in too critical a condition. The odds, I am afraid, are still on either a split and a bitter fight over the Labour Party name and assets, or continued guerrilla warfare to ensure that the party remains disunited, which will of course be blamed on the majority that just wanted to get on with the job of opposing the Tories rather than the small minority who aim is to prevent that job being done properly.
For the sake of completeness I must mention the additional conference event run by Momentum to which, sadly, I did not manage to get. By all accounts it was a jolly and interesting affair to which everyone was invited. There was a creche so no doubt we will be hearing about toddlers being made to wear Jeremy Corbyn peaked caps while they were told tales of Uncle Leon Trotsky before marching around waving little red books.
I shall end by noting some really good speeches from John McDonnell, Len McCluskey, Angela Rayner, Marvin Rees, Andy Burnham, many others and of course the revered leader himself. I am so looking forward to next year’s conference.