29th September 2017
Listening to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at Labour Party Conference in Brighton, you would be forgiven for assuming that his party were on the cusp of forming the next Government.
The Labour Party Conference reflected a profound sense of optimism and self-confidence among the party faithful, with leading members of the Shadow Cabinet taking turns to pronounce Corbyn as the next Prime Minister of a Labour Government, all while jubilant Labour members chanted their leader’s name.
The days of shadow ministerial resignations and failed leadership challenges are a distant memory. This year’s conference showcased a Labour Party united behind its leader. The previously Corbyn-sceptic Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, received a warm reception from party activists. Even Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, formally one of Corbyn’s greatest tormentors, instigated a series of “oh Jeremy Corbyn” chants during his conference speech.
The party faithful are optimistic and this is being reflected in their leader. Corbyn described his party as being “on the threshold of power”. But despite finally managing to unite the Labour Party, is Corbyn truly on the brink of entering No 10, or is he simply preaching to the converted?
We are the political mainstream now
Corbyn made a bold claim during his conference speech, acknowledging British politics is usually won in the centre ground, yet claiming the centre had shifted to the political left. Thus making the Labour Party the political mainstream.
With his conference proposals set to cost an eye-watering £312 billion according to the Telegraph, this seems unlikely. Re-nationalising the railways and utility companies, abolishing tuition fees and renationalising PFI contracts are not typical policies of the centre ground.
Corbyn has certainly compromised in certain policy areas to keep the Parliamentary Labour Party onside. While dedicating much of his political activism to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Labour Party’s manifesto pledged to maintain Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Even his current policy platform isn’t exactly a commitment to socialist utopia. On corporation tax, Corbyn has simply committed to setting the rate to its pre-2010 level of 26%. While rent controls may seem pseudo-socialist, but cities such as New York and Berlin already have them in place.
Only time will tell
While the Labour Party used conference to celebrate its recent electoral result, it is important to acknowledge that the Conservatives won the largest number of seats and votes. At the next election Labour needs to gain 7 Conservative seats to kill the prospect of the Conservatives forming another coalition. Even then Labour would still be 57 seats short of a majority.
The main thing to remember though is that British politics is experiencing an unprecedented period of political volatility and the next General Election isn’t scheduled to take place until 2022. By then the Brexit negotiations will be completed and the British public may have a completely different view of Theresa May.
One thing is for certain. The Labour Party Conference demonstrated that Labour’s members are dancing to Corbyn’s tune, and in Tom Watson’s case, they are even singing to it.
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