Last week, our Head of Engagement was in Liverpool for the 2023 Labour Party Conference. In our latest blog, Liam shares his experience and key takeaways.
The last Labour Prime Minister went into his first election victory in 1997 with the mantra ‘education, education, education’. For Keir Starmer, who has carefully crafted a persona as PM-in-waiting, it is ‘build, build, build’.
Asked if he was a ‘YIMBY’ last week on BBC News, Keir gave an unusually straight answer for a politician. “Yes,” he said.
This was the message doled out in spades in Liverpool last week. It was Labour’s busiest conference since losing power in 2010, with around 18,000 people in attendance. Symbolic, when the key conference theme was growth.
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor spoke to Conference to “get Britain building again.”
Rachel Reeves announced plans to tackle Britain’s “antiquated planning system” and fast-track critically important infrastructure, from homes to energy; and futureproofing with more advanced manufacturing facilities, lab space, and 5G.
Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, did what she does best and went on attack mode, criticising Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s refocussing of resources from deprived areas to wealthy ones. She also condemned her opposite number, Michael Gove, for handing back to the treasury, £2billion in funding earmarked for affordable housing. Rayner claimed a Labour government “would right this wrong”, unlocking government grants to deliver new affordable homes.
On day three of the Conference, Starmer pledged the delivery of 1.5 million homes during the five years of the next Parliament. He also promised new social infrastructure, such as GPs and schools. This is no mean feat.
The Labour Leader said he would need at least two terms in power to “rebuild a crumbling UK.” There would need to be a new generation of colleges to deliver the future skills UK needs, training nuclear technicians, automotive engineers and computer scientists.
This time last year, Liz Truss was still Prime Minister, wrecking the nation’s finances and tearing the Tories apart. This year, Britain’s fifth Conservative Prime Minister in thirteen years has rolled the dice once again, but will Rishi’s gamble pay-off?
Big business doesn’t seem to think so. There was warm support from businesses in response to speeches from Reeves and Starmer. A strong corporate presence at Labour Conference saw executives from some of the world’s leading firms in attendance, from Goldman Sachs to Boeing and Amazon.
Shadow Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, showcased his plans for an Industrial Strategy, prioritising net zero, further devolution and repairing trade relations with the EU.
So a big tick for wooing businesses, but what will individual voters think? Will voters think of the bigger picture when faced with the prospect of new developments in their town or local neighbourhood, albeit new homes or energy infrastructure? Or will they prefer the idea of saving money on their vehicles, gas boilers or their buy-to-let investments?
We will find out in the coming weeks, but polls suggest that the Labour Party is on course for a victory at the next General Election.
If one thing is for certain though, the Conservatives will put up a strong fight. They are the most successful political party in the western world. They know how to win and should never be underestimated.
The 2024 General Election is by no means a done deal.