Ahead of what could be a tumultuous and divisive Labour Party conference, where Jeremy Corbyn is widely expected to be re-elected as Party leader, we take a look at some of the most important things to look our for.
The mood of conference will be determined by the size of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory which will be announced at around 11:45 on Saturday. 60% or over will see the Corbynistas jubilant because their mandate, and grip on the party has been strengthened from the 59.5% of the vote Corbyn secured 12 months ago. Any narrowing of the gap will be seized upon by moderates as a sign that the Corbyn high water mark has been reached and provide a sliver of hope.
The headline moment?
Without doubt the election result will be the top story of the conference, followed by what Corbyn says in his Leader’s speech on Wednesday and the extent that he offers a genuine olive branch to rebels. Behind the scenes the political story will be the discussion taking place within the NEC on what form the reinstatement of elections to the Shadow Cabinet will take. This is a cross roads for Labour as it will determine whether or not the former Ministers will agree to work with Corbyn.
Aim for conference?
Corbyn’s spin machine has slowly improved over the last year and he will want to use his mandate, and the prospect of a possible early general election, to act as a unifying factor. Mass rallies aside, his team will know that his popularity among the public is flat lining. They need to reach out past delegates in the hall and into voters’ living rooms with a core set of messages which will form the basis of Labour’s election campaign. Crucially, he will need to put some meat on his policy platform rather than fall back on his stump speech which speaks to the converted, and goes unnoticed in the margins.
A tale of two conferences?
Labour needs to draw a line under splits and claims of a party within a party. This could prove an arduous task; Momentum will be holding its own full blown, potentially detracting conference close by the main conference, where Corbyn will address a cluster of new members, many of whom were formerly anti-Labour. In these circles party unity may not be their priority. There will be many MPs and activists from both sides of the fence, willing to give non-attributable quotes in the hotel bars which will provide the lobby with plenty of material. Expect a punch up or two.
Potential policy announcements
The big decisive policy debates such as Trident won’t take place this year but we can expect a fleshing out of plans to nationalise the rail industry, end marketisation of the NHS, the digitisation of democracy and a £500bn infrastructure investment programme focused on green technologies. What may be missing is a coherent plan to pay for all this.
Other things to look out for?
Keep an eye on the issues championed by Labour’s big beasts such as Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper, who have already indicated that they won’t serve in a Corbyn cabinet, but will instead seek to oppose the government through powerful select committee positions.