I’m on the train to London from Labour’s conference, and just saw Keir Starmer getting on (both in ram-packed economy seating in case you’re curious). I thought I’d write four quick reflections:
Labour has finally fallen out of love with losing.
It’s not that Labour actively wanted to lose elections, but nor were they willing to do what was necessary to win them. There’s a reason why no Labour leader other than someone called Blair has won a general election since 1974. Labour now understands this and seems willing to do what it takes. There’s a lot of policy work ahead to get Labour election-ready but this gathering next to the Albert Dock was a big moment in next year’s journey to Downing Street.
Going north in search of a majority.
Labour can lead a minority government by winning only in England and Wales. But after last week’s dramatic by-election victory, the route to a Labour majority government runs through Scotland. For every eight seats that Scottish Labour wins, Keir Starmer need a 1% less swing in England and Wales. Starmer‘s speech had more focus on Scotland than any Leader’s speech I can remember, including from the three Scots – Smith, Brown, and Blair. The path from SW1 to central Scotland will be a busy one over the next year.
They are back in business, and business is back.
I’ve been going to these conferences for over thirty years and this was the most confident I can remember in its engagement with business. It’s not that every Labour politician and every business leader agree on every issue, but it’s that each is willing to listen as well as talk. Labour knows that to succeed in growing the economy they will have to be first genuinely private sector Labour government in the party’s history.
This is Keir’s party now.
This was Keir’s Starmer’s third speech and conference as Leader. In his first speech, delivered online in 2021, the party had been accepting of him. Last year, I sensed, they had begun to respect him. This week, for the first time, the party showed a deep affection for him. That will be important if he faces the tough choices after winning.
And finally, thanks to everyone who made Arden’s Conference Business Lounge such an outstanding success! Special thanks to the Arden staff, Shadow Cabinet, caterers, candidates, Mayors, security, speakers, and guests.