After our visit to Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth last week, we now head East along the coast the Brighton, where Jeremy Corbyn will oversee the first Labour Party conference since he became leader a couple of weeks ago. After another lengthy Labour leadership contest, Corbyn was able to win in the first round, defeating Andy Burnham, who now serves as Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary, and Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, both of whom have chosen to head to the backbenches for the time being.
Labour’s eventful summer began with the election where, contrary to the expectations of pollsters, they lost seats, despite an increase in their share of the vote. As well as the collapse in Scotland at the hands of the SNP, Labour under Ed Miliband were unable to make the gains needed off the Conservatives to form a government, and in fact lost a number of seats directly to their chief rivals.
Labour’s leadership election was the first to take place under the new rules, and after narrowly managing to gain the support of 35 MPs (the necessary 15%) threshold, Corbyn’s campaign was able to take advantage of the new addition of registered supporters, and energise enough new members and supporters to make the leadership count little more than a formality.
Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet was, to some extent, dominated by those who did not take up roles, with respected figures such as Chris Leslie, Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna choosing not to serve. The top team was criticised for being dominated by male figures including Burnham, new Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and Hilary Benn, who serves as Shadow Foreign Secretary, although the promotion of new faces such as Luciana Berger and Lilian Greenwood has reduced the attack from the media on that particular front.
Lisa Nandy, who has previously served as Shadow Minister for Civil Society, was promoted to the shadow cabinet, where she will take up responsibility for shadowing the Department of Energy and Climate Change. In her place comes Anna Turley, the newly elected MP for Redcar, as the new Shadow Minister for Civil Society.
For Labour, the enthusiasm for Corbyn within the party and amongst supporters may be tempered by the caution of the wider electorate. Corbyn and his team have already come under fire for opinions on foreign and economic policy, and his refusal to sing the national anthem caused uproar in the press. Corbyn also faces a challenge to get his policies adopted by the Parliamentary Labour Party, many of whom come from a different political position. And he has to convince voters soon, with initial polling showing that the public think that he will perform worse than Ed Miliband,
As a result, the mood at Labour Party conference will be mixed, with enthusiasm tempered by the electoral reality that faces the party, and the political debates that lie ahead. Despite the resounding victory that Corbyn and his team engineered, there remains little sense that Labour are united, and the party faces a difficult challenge in papering over those cracks.
Our ‘Under the Microscope’ report – launched for conference season – explores the ways that Labour MPs and voters perceive charities, and we’ll be exploring some of the findings on the stand. You can come and visit us at stand 15 throughout conference – step into our science lab to find out what we’ve discovered, and have a go on our interactive voting game to let us understand more about how Labour conference attendees perceive charities. You can pick up a copy of our report, and a tasty test-tube themed treat!
We’ll also be holding a fringe in Brighton, where we’ll look into what our report found in more detail. CAF’s John Low will be acting as chair, and we’ll be joined by Shadow Local Government Minister Steve Reed MP, Peter Kyle MP, Ed Cox from IPPR North, and ComRes’s Tom Mludzinki, who will be presenting the findings to the audience.
We’d love for you to join us. Our event – Testing, testing: Hear what MPs and the public REALLY think about charities – will take place on Sunday 27th September, 1730 – 1900 in Durham Hall – Argyle, in the Hilton Brighton Metropole. Join us for a glass of wine and some food, and find out what Labour MPs and voters think about the future of charities!