What's the flavour of Labour Conference? Soggy bottom edition
What’s the Flavour of Conference? As Paul Hollywood might say ‘That’s Raw!’
Fans of the Great British Bake Off will be used to the disappointment of a soggy bottom – where pastry remains under baked due to a lack of proper preparation and insufficient time given to ensure a thorough bake. When looking for a flavour to describe this year’s Labour Party Conference I can think of no better analogy.
And the comparison is not just because of the rather soggy looking conference goers soaked by the remnants of Hurricane Karl as it passes over Liverpool today. Today Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will take to the conference stage and repeat the calls he has spent all morning making to the media, for greater government borrowing to fund an industrial renaissance. An extra £500bn of government spending is quite a statement. Unfortunately and perhaps frustratingly for McDonnell it will fall largely on ears made deaf from the at times brutal attacks following the recent leadership contest.
McDonnell of course needs to offer a vision for the economy, but his speech looks set to lack impact because the party is still processing the result and waiting to see how the Parliamentary Party responds. The fact that the leadership contest has happened just in advance of conference has meant the important preparatory blind baking of policies, to return to my earlier analogy, has not happened and the result will be raw.
Raw because members will need to feel united before calls for unity are likely to work. Raw because the party has yet to form a team around the leader. Raw because not enough time has been given to consider the narrative and policies that will properly hold the government to account.
And the solution will not be turning up the heat in the oven. The atmosphere in the run up to conference has been too heated and at times abusive. The party is changing their rules to remove these abusers, which is an important first step. Hopefully the leaders will follow through on their conciliatory tone pre-conference and take some heat out to allow unity. Only by doing so will the party come out of the oven ready and hopefully looking to the electorate like an appetising alternative to Theresa May’s government.