The staging of the 2022 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool could not have been more different to the last Labour Party Conference in Brighton 12 months ago. In Brighton, Sir Keir Starmer cut a lone figure behind the main stage podium. In Liverpool, you could barely see the Leader of the Opposition amongst the party loyalists which crowded the stage and who rose to their feet in suspicious unanimity throughout his keynote address.
The tone of this year’s Labour conference was markedly bullish and spoke of a party leadership that, in Wes Streeting’s words, had “never been more confident of victory at the next general election.” The mood was almost jubilant, buoyed by a combination of internal party stability, just enough traditionally socialist policies to keep everyone happy and a Conservative Government who, according to everyone in attendance, had lost touch with the reality of daily life for ordinary British people.
For the Labour Party, the Chancellor’s mini budget could not have come at a better time. Kwasi Kwarteng’s announcement was a Labour spin doctor’s dream and effectively wrote the Labour frontbench’s key lines for them as they addressed the party faithful. At one level, this year’s Labour Party Conference felt comfortingly reminiscent of Labour Conferences past, before our news headlines were dominated by Brexit and COVID19.
It saw a commitment to return to the 45p top tax rate, and the re-emergence of a proposed national care service. The Labour Party was feeling nostalgic and their message was predictably simple: the Conservative Party is looking out for the top 1% and the rest of us will be left picking up the pieces.
In keeping with this tone, the Labour Party Conference saw the key announcements swing back towards the left. The Labour Party managed to commit to nationalising just about everything apart from broadband and the postal service whilst committing to raise the minimum wage in line with the cost of living and to establishing a National Economic Council to bring unions to the table to discuss the UK’s economic growth.
However, on the flip side, the 2022 Labour Party Conference saw the emergence of a Labour Party that was shot through with environmentalism at every turn, that was supportive of innovative technologies being a central part of the NHS and was committed to financially incentivising the expansion of modern industries.
For all the choreographed optics of party unity, this year’s Labour Party Conference reaffirmed the fact that Sir Keir Starmer continues to straddle a wide abyss within the Labour Party. The frontbench commitments were a delicate blend of the socialist and the progressive, with the former made palatable by rising energy bills and Conservative tax cuts. The fact that Starmer and other key members of the shadow team were able to walk this tightrope whilst projecting the image of a “ready for Government” Labour Party, speaks to what will be largely viewed as a successful party conference. It will no doubt see the Labour Party return to parliament rejuvenated for the months ahead.