Dispatch from Labour Conference: It's (still) the economy, stupid

This morning the Midland Hotel is full of leading figures from the UK's PR and Public Affairs community busily preparing for the day ahead.

Ed Miliband: Labour Party Conference
Ed Miliband: Labour Party Conference

Amongst Labour Party activists the mood is divided - many folks are upbeat and confident but equal numbers are feeling uncertain and looking for a huge speech from Ed Miliband on Tuesday to flesh out what life under Labour will mean - the vision, if you like.

Lots of old friends I spoke to this morning do agree that organisationally Labour is miles ahead of where it was this far out from 2010. Key target seats are often knocking on 2000 doors a month. This sort of thing changes the course of elections. 

But winning is not just organisation - the politics bit is crucial and the shadow chancellor will announce that Labour would extend the Coalition’s cap on child benefits by an extra year. This means that the payments would fall in real terms, with the rate fixed at 1% per year until 2017. The mood here on the ground seems supportive of the policy. 

Elsewhere, others are enjoying their Monday morning.  Lots of Labour MPs are touring the Conference Exhibition and Ed Balls’ speech is very eagerly anticipated -especially after photos of him accidentally elbowing journalist Rob Merrick at the Labour Party Conference football match made the front pages and caused much chatter on conference floor.  .  

The conference hall is full to the brim and the mood remains upbeat. Conference is now in full swing and energy levels are high – always easy at the beginning of Conference and with a strong coffee in hand.

Economic growth had been a theme for us in Manchester, both in the main hall and at the fringe. One can’t ignore the lobbying voices seeking to engage with the debate, for example calling for fuel duty cuts.

Ed Miliband’s determination to implement an £8 minimum wage by 2020 was met with jubilant cheers in the main hall.  Yet Labour’s challenge is to prove to the electorate that they can be fiscally responsible. As I predicted might occur, commuters awoke to the Federation of Small Businesses expressing its concern. On the ground at Conference, however, the party membership is supportive and there is a strong feeling that this is what a Labour Government is about. This is the backdrop with which Chuka Umunna and Ed Balls will take the stage in Manchester today.

Despite the huge importance of the economic arguments in the run up to 2015, the buzz surrounding Scotland has not lessened. Delegates are keen to frame it as a Labour victory and to explain exactly why Labour is best placed to take on the challenge of ensuring that devolution occurs in a timely and satisfying manner. 

Looking forward to see just how and if Ed, Chuka and the rest of the team will galvanise the crowds today. 

Kevin Craig is Managing Director of Political Lobbying and Media Relations (PLMR). He is a former Labour Parliamentary Labour Candidate and has served ten years a Lambeth Councillor in Vauxhall re-elected in 2014.


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