Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the Labour Party’s Conference was always going to look very different through its virtual format. Held between 19th-22nd September 2020, it was a strong start to the party conference season, with its leadership challenging the government’s Covid-19 response and appealing to the many, not the few.
In this year’s conference, there was an additional change to the virtual format; Labour had a new leader. In its simplest form, the conference is an opportunity for the party and its members to engage with its manifesto and to formulate party ideas. With regards to external spectators, it offers more of a glimpse into the individual party’s take on current affairs. In this time of a second Covid-19 wave arising, there had to be a breath of fresh air from the leading Opposition party on its final day. Keir Starmer’s concluding speech was intricately curated and delivered with ease. His speech showed the party was under new leadership and he wanted to win elections.
“I’m not the sort of Leader who wants to turn the clock back. Times change – and so do political priorities.“
Starmer’s speech primarily focused on the change a new Labour leader can, but most importantly should bring. He consistently stated how people needed not only to learn from the past, but to “look to the future.” His only review of previous Labour Party leaderships was in reference to them winning general elections. In all, there was no direct mention of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. He specifically mentioned Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair all of which “saw it as their task to modernise Britain.” Starmer made it clear this was new leadership and for people to now “take another look at Labour.” Amongst the political wording, Starmer was showing how the Labour Party wants to pursue a winning mindset of changing Britain, for the better.
“It’s time to get serious about winning.“
Admittedly, the general election is most likely now consigned to its fixed term date of 2024, but this quotation remains an important point. In saying this, Starmer is instigating the notion that the Labour Party will be learning from the past in order to succeed in the future. In Prime Minister’s Questions, Starmer is a strong leader with excellent communication skills when challenging the government. He is forensically in tune with the politics of Parliament and of the people when arguing his case. There is no denying this is a strong leader that the Labour party has been desperately needing.
Despite the 2020 conference reaching audiences virtually, this message from the leader was loud and clear. The Labour Party is one that has consistently challenged the government, and also a party that can be in government. In the current climate of pandemic uncertainty, it is refreshing to see a leader who is certain in his approach to the future. His concluding speech gave a glimpse into what could be an uplifting era of politics, righting previous wrongs to create opportunities for the many and not the few. In order to “take another look at Labour,” people will see a leader who has recognised the challenges of the past and present in order to strive for a better future.
Words by Lisa McGrady
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