Following three windswept and wet days in Brighton here is a quick roundup of a sometimes-chaotic Labour Party Conference.
Beginning with the perennial elephant in the conference room – Brexit.
Brexit policy is sensible if not entirely understood
In short Labour’s position is designed to de-risk Brexit.
Labour intend to:
- Negotiate a new deal - building on the current withdrawal agreement and rewriting the political declaration to include a commitment to remaining in a Customs Union, alignment to the Single Market and accepting that this will likely include the need to maintain Freedom of Movement.
- Have a referendum inside 6 months - Once a new deal has been agreed they will put it to the people against the option to remain.
- Implement whatever the outcome of that vote is – without preference (at this point).
While not the clear remain message that many members were looking for, it ensures they maintain an offer for ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ – currently the only party looking to do so. It also removes the risk of No Deal and protects the Good Friday Agreement.
But neither conference, nor the Party in general, wants to talk about Brexit. It is something to be resolved, in the least damaging way possible, but it is not their focus.
Labour is instead almost exclusively focused on two key priorities: climate change and social justice
Climate Change – 2030 target a sign of commitment
Conference supported motions backing a Green New Deal. Included in these were a target for the UK to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 and plans to nationalise the big six energy firms.
In addition, John McDonnel and other key shadow cabinet members spoke about rewiring Whitehall to prioritise climate goals with proposals to set carbon budgets for departments to sit alongside fiscal ones.
A national investment bank, with regional arms, and a national transformation fund will all be given the priority of tackling climate change.
Green is the new red.
Social justice – redistributing wealth and opportunity
Labour’s second focus is on addressing inequality.
Committed to ending Universal Credit, implementing a £10 minimum wage (for all ages), higher personal taxes for top earners, annual wealth taxes, re-establishment of Sure Start centres, abolition of many tax exemptions – Labour has big plans for change.
Most of their plans are built on their 2017 manifesto and have been discussed at great length at previous conferences.
Some ideas may be new, but the direction of travel is not.
What does this all mean for business?
Radical change will come quickly
Labour intend to make a statement in the first 100 days.
As the Shadow Chancellor noted “our first budget is about waking people up”.
Labour have very detailed implementation plans on all aspects of their manifesto. If they are to enter Downing Street it will not take them long to get their feet under the table.
Policy changes will come thick and fast, the business environment will change rapidly and that change may be dramatic.
Brexit risks reduced
Labour’s plans for Brexit ensure that the new ‘worst case scenario’ for business is not No Deal but a soft Brexit.
We will continue to share what we learn at this year's Party conferences, including the likely Conservative conference next week.
“Tackling climate change is key” - John McDonnell “We are talking about emergency socialism” - Clive Lewis