Life as a political observer means that over the course of your career you get to attend many a party conference. After a decade of conferences, here are my impartial (!) highs and lows of Labour Party conference in Liverpool.

Life as a political observer means that over the course of your career you get to attend many a party conference. After a decade of conferences, here are my impartial (!) highs and lows of Labour Party conference in Liverpool.

Highs

  •          The city itself. From friendly people to excellent conference facilities, you’d have to go a long way to find a city that is as hospitable and well geared up to hosting this kind of influx of ‘foreigners’. Despite Monday’s weather, Liverpool put on a great show with Scouse night the highlight of the evening activities!
  •          Packed fringe events meant that debate was vociferous. The Party’s recent turmoil inspired some of the most engaged fringe events I have seen in a long time. Discontent seems to have been good for debate on the fringes. The debates in plenary less so but at least debate is taking place, somewhere
  •          My waistline! I leave conference with a waistline that is pretty much as it was when I arrived. For those not familiar, fringe events are famed for their carbohydrate rich buffets – crisps, sandwiches, pasta and rice are interspersed with a cocktail sausage or two and a glass of something red or white. For many the lack of nutritional offerings at fringe events will have been lamentable. For me, it was welcome relief!

Lows

  •          Limited topics for debate. There is a lot going on in the world and our country but the range of topics for debate on the plenary floor and at the fringes felt decidedly limited. Topics got tired very quickly. Foreign policy, defence and entrepreneurialism were areas left decidedly unexplored. This is a shame given that this conference was positioned as a time for renewal.
  •          Where was everybody? I’ve never been to conference with so few people! Despite its massive membership, the troops were not on the ground in Liverpool and nor were businesses. I measure this based on the fact that I was always able to get a chair in the communal areas and was able to get served straight away at any bar I went to!
  •          Spokespeople outshone by their predecessors. With an almost entirely new shadow cabinet, Labour’s frontbenchers are still grappling with their new portfolios. And it showed. It showed even more because their predecessors were also doing the rounds at fringe events and showing us what we are missing. Whilst many of the new shadow cabinet are no doubt talented, the party can’t afford to lose other talents within. It would be a real shame and another low if it were to

Michael Stott

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search