Sketch on the Labour Party conference

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 16 March 2015 in Comment

What did Liam Kirkaldy learn from attending the new Patriotic Labour Party's conference?

The Scottish Labour conference kicked off at around 10am. By 10:07 we heard the first use of ‘comrade’.

This set the tone nicely – a chance for the foremost revolutionary minds in Scottish politics to come together and take the pulse of the modern-day class struggle.

Keir Hardie – whose shadow loomed large over proceedings – started out as a coal miner before becoming one of the founding members of the Labour movement. In his later life he campaigned for women’s suffrage, home rule for India and an end to segregation in South Africa. 

And Labour’s radical tradition was alive and well at the conference, where delegates spent the first few hours debating whether to introduce the word ‘patriotic’ into the party’s constitution. 

Speakers channelled the spirit of Hardie, arguing that as a home rule campaigner, he would back them, or as a socialist, he would not. 

"No one even bothered to ask what Keir Hardie would make of this, but then he wouldn’t even have heard of Jeremy Kyle, let alone Tricia"

Meanwhile Jim Murphy watched on, sitting with his fingers entwined in front of him, like a particularly well dressed praying mantis at a seance.

And who knows what Hardie would make of today’s politics. It’s possible he would have turned up with strong views on the debate, but it’s equally possible he would have been too surprised by the advancements made in electric lighting to take much notice.

Certainly, nothing would have enraged Hardie more than the SNP, a centrist party aiming to grow the economy while making efforts to reduce inequality. No, Hardie would definitely have chosen New Labour, even if there may have been some tension between his pacifism and the party’s position on Trident.  

In the end, the delegates – sorry, comrades – voted in favour of the motion, apparently reaching the conclusion that the omission of the word patriotic had been the key factor in holding back the interests of the global proletariat. 

Next, things moved on to a fairly odd section where Jim, and Kezia Dugdale, spoke to two ‘normal people’ in a chat-show format on stage. It was kind of like Tricia, but with less emphasis on adultery.

The two guests, brought on to demonstrate the effects of austerity, sat uncomfortably as Jim and Kez tried to highlight the various strands of misery in their professional and personal lives.

The message was clear – not only does Jim want your vote, if possible, he wants to sit around making stilted conversation with you, while asking prying questions about your personal life. Beat that, Sturgeon.

No one even bothered to ask what Keir Hardie would make of this, but then he wouldn’t even have heard of Jeremy Kyle, let alone Tricia. 

By this point the socialist spirit was so prevalent it was tempting to start a divisive faction. Sadly though, not everyone agreed. 

In fact some protestors had arrived with a banner reading ‘Red Tories out’, as a fairly terrifying-looking man, wearing a Guy Fawkes protest mask topped by a see-you-jimmy hat, lectured passers-by on the evils of austerity. 

Presumably the banner referred to Labour, though given the party isn’t in power it’s hard to say where they wanted them evicted from. 

Unfortunately, there was no time for the protestors to explain how “all polling is a lie” because Ed Miliband was taking the stage, using his speech to push for a head-to-head TV debate with the PM.

He said: “I say to David Cameron: you can refuse to face the public, but you can’t deny your record. You can try to chicken out of the debates, but don’t ever again claim that you provide strong leadership. You can try to escape the people’s debates, but you will not escape the people’s verdict.”

"Speaking of suit shoes, Murphy arrived wearing bright red ones – no doubt the same ones Hardie would have worn, were he present"

This went down well, so Miliband continued to talk about chickens. To roars of laughter, he said: “Now we know why the chicken crossed the road – to avoid the TV election debates.”

Presumably that’s a Marx quote.

And Miliband was good, though curiously out of place in the new Patriotic Scottish Labour Party, like some posh cousin invited to stay at a farm for the weekend who turns up wearing suit shoes instead of wellies. 

Speaking of suit shoes, Murphy arrived wearing bright red ones – no doubt the same ones Hardie would have worn, were he present. And he spoke very well, moving from his experience of growing up in South Africa to poverty in modern-day Scotland to highlight the evils of the Tories. 

By then the red flag (or shoe) had been flown and it was left to Margaret Curran to take it down and wrap it up, telling conference, “while we hear many people talk about breaking the glass ceiling, for too many women they can’t even get through the plasterboard”.

Still, she couldn’t help returning to the day’s theme – reminding us that before Murphy, the last teetotal Labour leader had been Keir Hardie.

From the rapturous reaction to Murphy’s speech, you would think he was back.

Tory sketch here

SNP sketch here

Lib Dem sketch here

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