Party Conference is like the Glastonbury of politics. The leader’s speech is the headline act – an opportunity to send out a message about the parties values and aims to voters, but also to party members.
We explored what goes on behind the scenes, and why this 2015 conference season is so important:
2015 was a good year for the Green Party… up until the general election.
The “Green Surge” saw 13,000 people join the party in just one week. Leader Natalie Bennett scored points by being included in the TV party leader’s debate. The Greens were going mainstream and things seemed to be going so well.
At the general election 3.8% of the public voted for them, their highest share of the vote ever. However, due to our electoral system they only have ONE MP, Caroline Lucas.
If we switched to a system called Proportional Representation the Greens would have 24 MPs rather than one. So it’s no surprise that Natalie Bennett’s conference speech called for change.
She also criticised the government for not doing enough to fight climate change. The Greens just wanna be friends and will campaign to stay within the European Union.
They also got practical, collecting donations for the refugees in Calais, France. Perhaps less talk, more action is the way forwards?
Little mention was made of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Many predict he will move the Labour party to the left of politics… with some similar values to the Green Party. If this happens, will there be much point in the left-wing Green Party?
Caroline Lucas MP seems to be up for joining forces with other parties on certain issues saying “we are stronger when we work together’.
Are the Greens irrelevant? Or will the Green surge continue? You decide.
The UK Independence Party is having a bit of a rough time.
Despite picking up 12.6% of the public vote in the general election, our electoral system means they only have ONE MP. Mega awkward.
This disappointing general election result led to their leader Nigel Farage resigning… only to return a few weeks later.
With the referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union approaching this should be UKIP’s moment. After all, this is why the party was created.
But it seems squabbles within UKIP might spoil things.
Leader Nigel Farage and UKIP’s single MP Douglas Carswell disagree on a major decision. They support different campaigns linked to the European Union referendum, due to happen before the end of 2017.
Farage used Conference to announce his backing for anti-EU group Leave.eu and thinks it should be the official campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
Carswell used to be a Conservative MP, but defected to UKIP. He supports Business For Britain, which hasn’t yet committed to backing an EU exit. Farage has accused Carswell of having “residual loyalty” to his old Tory party. Even more awkward.
Will frenemies Farage and Carswell put aside their differences before the referendum?
AKA the one we’ve all been waiting for.
The Conservative Party are back in government – and for the first time since 1992 have enough parliamentary seats to form a majority. No longer held back by the Liberal Democrats they are free to do as they please… for the next five years at least.
David Cameron’s announcement that he will stand down before 2020 means everyone is wondering who will be next in line for the PM crown. Could it be George Osborne? Or perhaps Boris Johnson or Teresa May?
For now David Cameron looked secure, as he and the Tory big wigs outlined the Tory agenda for the next five years.
Cameron promised to build 200,000 new homes to tackle the housing crisis, to renew Britain’s Trident Nuclear system. He also outlined a more compassionate approach to the prison system, which Michael Gove had introduced the day before.
“We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this.
When prisoners are in jail, we have their full attention for months at a time – so let’s treat their problems, educate them, put them to work.”
The infamous Trade Unions Bill, which will make it harder for trade unions to strike, also got a mention at Conference.
Perhaps buoyed by his recent election success Cameron slammed Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Miaow.
“My friends – we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.”
Home Secretary Teresa May announced tough new laws on immigration.
“While we must fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need, we must also have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country.
Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.”
However, things aren’t all plain sailing. A number of divisions appear in the Tory party. The Conservatives are divided over whether the UK should leave the European Union. The referendum on whether to stay in or get out will take place…at some point…before 2017.
The Conservative conference took place behind a riot fence. Outside the conference venue 60,000 people gathered for an anti-austerity march.
Chief Supt John O'Hare said: "Today around 60,000 people took part in a demonstration and I would like to thank them for their cooperation."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Tory delegates were told in an email not to wear their Conservative passes outside of the secure compound.
Which was a little OTT as most of the protesters took part peacefully. Yet, some of some people focused on some negative behaviour, like spitting and egging. We’re not showing that… as, you know, the majority of the protesters took part in good faith. If you don’t believe us, believe the police;
Ch Supt O'Hare said: "The overwhelming majority of people have exercised their democratic right to protest with dignity and good grace."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Will the Conservatives deliver on their promises? Or are their days in power numbered?
SNP, 15th-17th October 2015
Plaid Cymru, 23rd October-10th November 2015
Voters decided today that it will be Conservative Zac Goldsmith facing Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the election for Mayor of London in 2016.
As of this morning, we knew only two things about Zac Goldsmith.
Put those two things together and you have a pretty awkward work situation on your hands. Moving on.
This wasn’t really good enough – seeing as our job is to break it all down simply so no one else has to. We’ve spent the day enlightening ourselves on why we have a mayor in the first place, what they’ve done for us in the past and what these two fresh mayoral candidates are offering.
Why do we have mayors?
City mayors didn’t exist in the UK, at least not the kind we actually vote for, until the year 2000. We have had Lord Mayors for hundreds of years, and that’s a whole different heap of old-timey crazy.
Since the year 2000, local authorities have been able to ask their residents whether or not they would like to have an elected mayor.
This was part of a decision to devolve powers to local government.
Devolution is a fancy word meaning the transfer of powers and responsibilities from central government in London to local authorities all over the UK – like if your mum put you in charge of some rabbits, and you had to make sure they all had fairly nice hutches but you also had to make sure the rabbits didn’t build any more hutches without your permission, make sure they can all get around to their rabbit-jobs efficiently and don’t commit too many rabbit-crimes.
Basically, a mayor is the head of a local authority who take over government responsibilities like housing and planning, waste and environment management, transport, policing, and economic growth. Did the rabbit thing make that any easier to understand?
If town residents vote in favour of having an elected mayor – which is what happened in London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Lewisham, North Tyneside, Salford, Torbay and a bunch of other places – then the next step is to actually elect one.
In London, Labour’s Ken Livingstone was elected mayor for the first eight years, followed by Conservative and love-hateable maniac Boris Johnson for the next eight years.
Changes are a-coming, though. Come 2016 the London Mayor won’t be Ken or Boris but will either be Zak or Sadiq. It sounds like the lads from One Direction are taking over City Hall. There are other candidates from other parties, but TBH nobody expects them to get a look in.
Whoever is elected London Mayor in 2016 can expect a salary similar to a cabinet minister – currently just over £140,000.
What have mayors ever done for us?
The stuff brought in by the last two London mayors is actually stuff Londoners use every day.
Trying to cut down on London’s carbon emissions, Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge requiring road users in Central London on week days.
He also introduced the Oyster card and made it possible for same-sex couples to register their partnership. This last initiative paved the way towards UK-wide civil partnerships. Woop.
Boris Johnson banned alcohol on London transport – and there was a big party the night before this law came into effect.
He also completed Ken’s plan of introducing a public cycle hire scheme of 5,000 bikes across London – known as Boris bikes.
Bo-Jo also set up the Outer London Fund, offering a pot of money up to £50m to help create better local high streets.
Who will be our next mayor?
One of these two gents.
Sadiq Khan is Labour MP for Tooting, and won 59% of the vote which took place in tandem with the Labour leader selection. The ballot included full members of the Labour party, registered supporters and affiliated sections (trade unions and the like). Khan managed to win a decisive majority across all three of these sections.
Zac Goldsmith is Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and won 70.6% of the vote in a ballot which any Londoner over 18 could vote in for £1.
What issues are they pushing forward?
They’re both ploughing right in with housing and green policies as top of their agenda.
Both are bothered about swollen house prices pushing regular Londoners out of their own city – with this creating a divided and unequal situation like Paris or New York where the rich live in the centre and the poor live at the fringes.
Zac says we need to build more houses and change the way we build them.
Sadiq says we need to make sure Londoners get ‘dibs’ on new houses and backs a ‘London Living Rent’ which would see a certain number of properties in any new build charging rent equal to a third of the average wage in the area.
They’re both serious environmentalists. Both completely oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport and put improving green spaces and the air Londoners breathe at the top of their if-elected to-do lists.
One thing they disagree on is the building of the Garden Bridge Boris Johnson has planned, which Sadiq Khan reckons is too hefty a cost on the public wallet. Zak reckons it’s OK. Woah guys this is way too much drama.
It’s mega early days, but right now the two candidates don’t seem all that different. At least in the sense that they’re focusing on exactly the same problems.
To be fair, though, seeing as nearly 10,000 die each year in London because of air pollution and mental London house prices being twice the national average, neither candidate could really ignore these things.
The difference will probably be in how they tackle these issues. Again, though, early days.
Spot the difference
There are for sure lots of differences between these two guys. The BIGGEST difference is their backgrounds.
Sadiq Khan, was the son of a bus driver and seamstress, grew up on a south London council estate and slept in a bunk bed at his parents’ house while he trained to be a lawyer.
Zac Goldsmith is son of aristocracy, inherited £200 million from his father and was expelled from Eton for possessing cannabis.
So. Yeah. Different. Let’s see how this plays out.
Now you’re decoded on the London Mayor and the new candidates you can join the debate. If you don’t live in London, call up a mate who does and lecture them on devolution, cos YOLO. For those who live in London you can vote in the actual mayoral election as long as your are over 18 on the day of the election in May 2016 and can register to vote.
Registering to vote takes about 5 minutes – do it here.
The Political Party Conference season is in full swing. What is this and why should you care?
Imagine it as a festival; the Glastonbury of politics.
At a festival, there are loads of bands, poets, theatre makers all vying for your attention. They want you to come to their gig, or support their cause. This is a little similar to a party conference.
Each year in party conference season politicians and party members get together to discuss what the party’s aims and values should be. Businesses and other groups send lobbyists, who attempt to influence the decisions and policies decided at conference.
Whatever you want to get out of party conference, odds are you can find it. There are prayer breakfasts, a running club and different lobbying groups trying to meet politicians. Luke James, parliamentary correspondent at the Morning Star, describes it as a “democratic festival whirlwind”.
“You’ve got people going here there and everywhere, and it’s not just in the conference centre – There’s literally dozens of fringe meetings every day starting at 7.30AM”.
Just don’t expect to see anyone raving. Ed Miliband we’re looking at you.
Each political party decides what to discuss in difference ways.
Labour has a National Policy Forum, made up of MPs, councillors and trade unions, which creates reports on various issues.
Some these are discussed at conference and go on to form Labour policy. However, party conference is not always where policy is made.
Luke James notes that in the past “a motion is passed at a Labour conference it doesn’t necessary mean it will become policy.” This is because they have very complex policy making process, as reported by the BBC.
When it comes to discussing policy the Green Party took a more artistic approach at their spring conference this year.
Members scrawled “visual minutes” of the issues being covered at conference onto a massive mural. Somehow we can’t imagine the Conservatives following suit. You never know though.
We’ve just had a general election – and the losers need to start planning for the next one.
If party conference is Glastonbury for politics, then the leader’s speech is the headline act. The Labour Party and the Lib Dems have new leaders who have to quickly make their mark.
UKIP needs to assert itself as a dominant force before the upcoming EU referendum and the Green Party needs to make the most of its increase in membership.
In Scotland, the SNP needs to set the agenda for the Scottish Parliament elections next year, and many are talking about the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum. Cor blimey.
Don’t forget the current government, the Conservatives. With a small majority David Cameron needs the backing of his entire party to push through new laws.
After some ham-fisted attacks online over the alleged #piggate scandal, he’ll want to move forward to more important matters – like Europe and the refugee crisis.
Though solid policy decisions may not be set at conference, it is important for setting the tone for the various parties; especially important as we have two new leaders for the opposition parties.
Even if you’re not political, you’ll probably have an opinion about what the government and the opposition parties stand for. Therefore conference is really important for getting the party message across to potential voters.
Party Conference in a nutshell;
At a festival you can reinvent yourself. You can let your hair down, try new things and decide who you want to be. Similarly these political party conferences, at the start of a new parliament, are an opportunity for the party leaders to set the agenda for the next 5 years.
Just like a festival, party conference can be exciting and busy – but don’t expect all policy to be decided right this minute.
The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is set to shake things up in Westminster;
Jeremy Corbyn is the new Labour leader. The veteran MP for Islington North won with an amazing 59.9% of first preference votes. This is more than Tony Blair won when elected leader in 1994.
Jeremy Corbyn regularly rebelled against Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; voting against the government over 500 times.
Originally seen as an outsider, Corbyn barely managed to secure enough nominations to join the leadership contest. Many of his nominators didn’t want to vote for him; they wanted to ensure a wider debate.
Corbyn wants ordinary people to have a greater say in the political process. Involving the public is a smart move; it was a “grassroots” movement rather than backing from Labour MPs which drove his campaign.
Corbyn has also promised to change the format of Prime Minister’s Questions. The weekly opportunity to quiz the Prime Minister is infamous for being rowdy. Corbyn wants a more serious, respectful debate. Yet when Corbyn asked people to send him questions to put to the Prime Minister the response was… mixed. His first PMQs was a quieter affair, but something he’ll have to push David Cameron harder in future.
Jezza C believes ending cuts to public services; he thinks we should invest in the economy. He would use Quantitative Easing (printing more money) to build more social housing and improve roads, railways and public buildings across the country. This would be paid for partly by clamping down on tax evaders.
Corbyn wants to bring the deficit (gap between what the government spends, and what it collects in tax) down. However, he won’t set a date for when this would be completed. Partly this would be achieved by raising taxes for the rich and by reducing tax cuts for companies.
Corbyn proposes to renationalise the railways and energy companies. This means that consumers, workers and government will collectively own and manage these services, rather than private companies.
For example, British Rail used to be publicly owned, until it was privatised in the 1980s. Similarly the Royal Mail used to be publicly owned. In 2013 the government sold off 70% of the postal service and in 2015, sold a further 15%. The government now owns only 15% of the Royal Mail.
The aim of re-nationalising services like the railways and energy companies is to ensure fairer prices for the consumer, but we need proof that this will actually improve the service we receive?
What does Jeremy Corbyn think about privatisation of the NHS? Err, no. Not ever.
The National Health Service (NHS) was originally created as a publicly owned service. Today it is still mainly publicly owned, but the Health and Social Care Act 2012 allows private companies to bid for some health service contracts.
As campaign group We Own It explains “instead of a publicly funded and publicly owned NHS, the Act created a competitive market for health services in which the government pays for, but does not provide health care.”
Corbyn also wants to create a National Education Service. A bit like an NHS for education, this would be a “lifelong learning service”. Tuition fees for universities would be scrapped (woohoo!) and education grants restored.
This new Labour leader supports nuclear disarmament. He wants to get rid of the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system. He has also proposed leaving the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), stating that a “serious debate” is needed over its power and influence.
Corbyn is against airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. Bombing Syria “won’t help refugees, it will create more”. Corbyn thinks the answer to the problem is to campaign for peace and for disarmament. The primary objective would be “cutting off the arm supplies and money to ISIL, as well as preventing ISIL selling oil and making money from it.” So far it’s not clear how this would be achieved.
Corbyn has promised that 50% of his shadow cabinet will be female, meaning half the top jobs will go to women. He also wants tougher laws on sexual harassment and for companies to publish their pay details in an attempt to close the pay gap between men and women.
Corbyn courted controversy when he said he would consult with women over the idea of “women-only carriages” to help stop sexual harassment on trains. Despite only saying he would consult on this idea Corbyn faced a huge backlash of anger.
Jeremy Corbyn is also under scrutiny as he has failed to appoint any women in the most senior positions of the shadow cabinet. Corbyn has selected 16 women and 15 men to make up the shadow cabinet, but the top five positions are occupied by men.
Political ideas are all well and good, but they mean nothing unless you win a general election and form a government. Many figures within the Labour party itself (including former Prime Minister Tony Blair) say that voting in Jeremy Corbyn would see Labour become a “party of protest” and result in losing the next general election in 2020.
This is the view shared by many media commentators.
Being a party of “protest” doesn’t necessarily mean you have no influence over policy. Commentators have noted how the Conservatives stole several Labour policies after being voted into power. Yet, many Labour supporters want the party to return to power.
The question is: how to do it?
Labour was born out of the trade union movement and is generally seen as a “left-wing” party. Under Tony Blair’s leadership the party re-branded itself as “New Labour”. New Labour moved towards the centre ground of the political spectrum. Blair supporters say that the only way to win an election is to stay in the centre.
Corbyn is expected to pull the party back towards the left. He won the backing of the worker’s unions during the contest and now wants to reinstate Clause IV of Labour’s constitution. This commits the party to public ownership and was removed by Tony Blair.
The party is divided between the more left-wing members, and those who want the party to remain more central. If Corbyn can’t unite the party behind him then Labour could end up splitting up. This would almost definitely mean a Tory victory in 2020.
Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies (nicknamed “Corbynomics”) like Quantitative Easing have been attacked by the Conservatives. Since the economic crisis the Tories and have pushed the idea that Labour can’t be trusted with the economy. However, many economists have backed Corbyn’s ideas.
Corbyn’s newly selected “shadow Cabinet” of advisors and ministers is a mix of Corbyn’s left-wing allies and those who think the party should be more centrist. Will this unite the divided party?
Many people are wondering how long Corbyn will survive as Labour leader. Will Jezza be overthrown? One possibility is that he will be replaced before the 2020 general election.
The Conservatives were initially delighted when Jeremy Corbyn entered the contest. They believed that if he won, it would ensure victory for them in 2020. They encouraged Tory supporters to pay £3 to vote in the Labour leadership and vote for Corbyn. Classic Tory banter.
(It’s worth noting: nearly 50% of fee paying Labour party members voted for Corbyn. It wasn’t just the support of the new £3 voters which won it for him)
Be careful what you wish for – now it would seem the Tories don’t find it as funny;
The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family's security.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2015
Just after Corbyn won the leadership the Conservatives released an email of Corbyn statements portraying him as a threat to the country. A video followed;
Labour are now a serious threat to our national security – please RT this important video: https://t.co/q5Omnl7ciG
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) September 14, 2015
** Update: The Conservatives seem to have taken down their video. Here it is:
Propaganda much? Were these selectively edited quotes, or do we have something to worry about?
The SNP and the Green Party have both stated that they would work with Corbyn fighting the anti-austerity cause. However the Liberal Democrats state that they are the only party to offer a credible opposition to the Conservatives. They currently have only eight MPs and used to be in coalition with the Tories, but we’ll let that pass.
.@SalBrinton The Corbyn style of politics may generate a lot of noise but only one thing keeps Gov in check – credible opposition (1/3)
— Lib Dem Press Office (@LibDemPress) September 12, 2015
Nigel Farage has stated that if Corbyn supports a British exit from the EU, UKIP would be delighted to unite forces.
A united Labour party with the support of the SNP could do some real damage to the Conservatives. However, it’s yet to be seen whether Corbyn will pull it off.
Is the Labour party doomed, or can Jeremy Corbyn win in 2020? Is this just an experiment in “left-wing” politics, or does the party need to split up? Will involving more ordinary people in the political process actually change things?
Have we missed anything? Get in touch and add to the discussion: email@example.com
In politics you often hear the term “left-wing” and “right-wing” thrown around. For example; left-wing political ideas are usually big on community and believe that government should be involved in society. Taxes are collected (richer people should pay more) and redistributed to support those who cannot look after themselves.
Political parties usually stick to the same side (left or right) but how close they get to the centre ground depends on who leads them. If the party disagrees with where the leader is taking them it can lead to a break up.
The Labour Party is at a crossroads. The original Labour party was born out of trade unions; created to represent the working class and workers in government. It was a “left-wing” party.
Then Tony Blair changed things, re-branding the party as “New Labour” and moving the party more to the centre ground of politics. Having lost two elections in a row the Labour party needs to choose; left or right. Unfortunately they can’t decide, and it may lead to the party breaking up.
When Blair became leader of the party in 1994 he created the concept of “New Labour”. First, he weakened the links to trade unions. He re-wrote Clause 4 of the party’s official constitution which wanted “common ownership of the means of production.” This allowed big business more influence in politics and weakened the power of worker’s unions. New Labour allowed some privatisation of public services, (something the old Labour party was against) believing this would make public services better and was something the public wanted.
Though the term “New Labour” was dropped in 2010, the party has pretty much stuck to this new set of ideals. As this position sat more in the centre ground of politics many have accused New Labour of becoming like the right-wing Conservative Party.
Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn believes the Labour party has been pulled too far to the right-wing of the political spectrum.
He wants to bring it back to the left and to regain some of the party’s traditional values. E.g. fighting for the workers, higher taxes for top earners (think; those earning about £150K). Jezza also wants to renationalise public services like the NHS and national railways.
This week Tony Blair made a speech about the future of the Labour party. Several comments could be interpreted as digs at Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was seen as wildcard when he put himself forwards, but is now reported to be ahead of his rivals.
In fairness to Blair, he didn’t officially endorse any candidate and said the contest shouldn’t be about an individual, but about a political platform which works for the country. What Blair thinks about Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing platform is anyone’s guess, though he gave plenty of clues. “When people say ‘well my heart says I should really be with that politics’…well, get a transplant.” Oh Tony, you joker.
If Corbyn wins the Labour leadership could this lead to a split – with half the political party returning to more left-wing politics, and the rest heading in the opposite direction? The party does have a history of break-ups. In 1981 a group of four Labour MPs decided their political party had become two left-wing and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The whole point of breaking from your party is to get away from the things you didn’t like about them. So many parties try to go it alone. However our electoral system, which is called First Past the Post gives better results for the larger parties. Its design means one party winning overall is more likely.
Take a look at this list of all political parties currently active in the UK, and compare it to this list of the number of parties actually in government. The list of parties in government is a lot shorter. So for a better chance of getting some power, some parties decide to team up.
No point sitting around moping; get back out there and hook up with someone new. After all there is strength in numbers, and you’ll never get anything done in parliament unless you have support.
After the Social Democratic Party was formed by Labour runaways they flirted with the Liberal Party. They eventually hooked up in 1988 to become the party we know today as the Liberal Democrats.
In the 2015 general election the Liberal Democrats lost a tonne of seats. They now only have eight seats left, and their ex-coalition partners the Conservatives have gone solo to take power. Break ups are brutal; one party always ends up better off.
Maybe the Liberal Democrats should team up with another political party – Tinder, anyone?
Ok, not really. That would just be… weird. But apart from jokes about the Lib Dems getting into bed with anyone (sorry Nick Clegg) this also has a historical basis.
In 1973 Scottish National Party (SNP) members broke away to form the Labour Party of Scotland (not to be confused with Scottish Labour). They fought a By-Election in Dundee and lost; only gaining 3% of the vote.
Politically, this could be seen as the equivalent of suddenly being single, going out for the night and ending up being carried home. But they did stop the SNP from winning the seat.
Lots of members of the party returned to the SNP soon afterwards. If you can’t beat them, join them… again.
In 2014, two Conservative back-benchers decided it was time to leave. Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless weren’t forming a new party but were defecting to the UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.
They then both fought, and won by-elections to regain their old parliamentary seats. A future UKIP surge seemed likely.
However, fast forward to the 2015 general election and only Douglas Carswell was voted back in as an MP. Mark Reckless lost his seat, which was taken back by the Conservatives.
There’s not much chance of Reckless being welcomed back by the Tories. This tweet was posted by Conservative candidate Claire Perry;
Not only that, the Tories are also suing Reckless for money spent on campaign materials printed for him before he left for UKIP. All is fair in love and war.
For Douglas Carswell, the next five years in Parliament as the only UKIP MP may be pretty lonely. UKIP want Britain to split up with the European Union. So at least they’ll get the EU referendum they wanted.
Don’t even get us started on the sort of break up that would be.