Ed Balls’s flagship announcement at his party conference speech was a “five-point plan for growth”. Some of the policies were old, some were new. He said that if Labour was in power it would:
- Repeat last year’s bank bonus tax, using the money to build 25,000 affordable homes and guarantee a job for 100,000 young people;
- Bring forward long-term investment projects, such as schools, roads and transport;
- Reverse the VAT rise now for a temporary period;
- An immediate one-year cut in VAT to 5 per cent on home improvements, repairs and maintenance;
- A one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers.
All is calm in Liverpool. Unlike last year’s Labour conference in Manchester, ripped apart by fratricide and the gloom of being in opposition for the first time. Or the year before that – in Brighton – when, despite looming defeat, delegates were gripped with election fever. (Akin to the music-playing on the Titanic ahead of its final plunge.)
In recent years Labour fought against the inevitability of eventual electoral defeat with no regard to the internal collateral damage. Now its people have realised that government is at best a long four years away.
There is no overwhelming sense of disunity. For sure, the Blairites and the left-wingers still disagree on which direction to take the party; but without the viciousness of the past. Out of power and without a policy platform such arguments can only be philosophical rather than practical.
Nor have there been personal fisticuffs. I’m told that David Miliband considered staying away altogether to avoid negative coverage. In the end he dropped in for a day and made a plausible display of loyalty to his brother. This morning we saw Ed Balls describe Ed Miliband as a “friend”. (The reality may be closer to ‘frenemy’, but relations are better than they were eight months ago.)
This does not negate the fact that the party still faces considerable hurdles. Read more