Labour conference 2015 - new new Labour
The Labour party will have some big questions to wrestle with at its party conference. Its commitment to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, 'austerity' economics and welfare will all be up for debate between a parliamentary group which largely describes itself as 'moderate' and a membership which overwhelmingly elected an alternative.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader was resounding. He received almost 60 per cent of over 400,000 votes cast, and he was immediately faced with an exodus of former shadow cabinet members, establishment figures who felt the party was putting principles before power.
Within days, it was clear Labour had embarked a new era.
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Is Scotland setting the political agenda in the UK?
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While the Conservatives stuck to a single line – “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security,” – criticism from within the party suggested the only threat posed was to its own electoral prospects.
Whether on the appointment of the controversial John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, or on a lack of women in top jobs in the shadow team – despite the majority of it being female for the first time – internal criticism was fierce and in public.
Addressing Labour’s Westminster parliamentary group, Corbyn said winning Scotland back was a priority.
But in an interview with the Herald, former chancellor and Better Together leader Alistair Darling said it couldn’t be done by pitching to the left.
“If you vacate the centre ground to the Nationalists, you will pay a heavy price,” he said.
However the change in direction has been welcomed by the trade unions. After Corbyn addressed the TUC conference recently, UNISON Scotland convener Lillian Macer said:
“UK Government cuts are hitting people and their public services hard in Scotland, just as they are right across the UK. UNISON members can see the damage that austerity is doing first hand. With job losses, pay freezes and cuts to services. Jeremy Corbyn has been given a strong mandate to oppose the UK government cuts and set out a real positive alternative.”
So far, it is the losers in the leadership election which have been more vocal. It remains to be seen whether the party conference will see the victors take control of the narrative