Labour Party conference: policy pledge for the Grass Roots which has business twitching

Political Lobbying and Media Relations MD, Kevin Craig has put himself on the frontline of the Labour Party conference, Sunday 21 September.

Labour Party Conference: dispatch from day 1
Labour Party Conference: dispatch from day 1

The first editions of today’s Sunday Papers came out whilst last night’s Conference socialising was in full swing and Ed Miliband’s commitment to increase the Minimum Wage by £8 in 2020 triggered huge debate and conversations. 

It will clearly be a defining policy of this week and already you can hear it as a huge moment in his last speech to Labour Party Conference as Leader of the Opposition – whatever the outcome of the General Election.

The Labour activists in the bars and restaurants of Manchester are buzzing – people are in buoyant mood having been at the forefront of the Better Together campaign and at every level of the Labour Party people are claiming the win as a Labour triumph and I have never seen Scottish Party Members so happy.   

Miliband's approach to constitutional reform and to set up a body going beyond elected MPs and to include ordinary citizens is a direct counter to Cameron's top-down approach to the issue.

Tactically, this is Labour signalling it 'gets' that the electorate feels 'left out and left behind' by Westminster politics and there can no longer be business as usual. No more business as usual  - this will be a big theme for the week.

Just as businesses and charities will be thinking strategically about Scotland and the need to increase their presence and operations north of the border – their calculators are out trying to get to grips with the Minimum Wage pledge.  In the last 24 hours the business lobby in Manchester that follows the Party Conferences around the UK has been gripped by what this minimum wage raise means for the business community. 

My view as a passionate entrepreneur, IoD Member, and founder of a business that now has 35 employees and turnover of £3 million is that a business that cannot sustain a living wage is a broken business and is fundamentally flawed - but make no mistake, this Minimum Wage pledge has gripped the conference scene and will do for the days ahead. 

At Labour’s last Business Reception Ed said "Labour is the Party of Business, supports business, and the need to make profits" so his message to the Labour Business Reception on Monday night is going to be keenly anticipated in view of the promise on Minimum Wage. 

He has vowed to consult business – I can’t wait to see what the reaction to him is on Monday night.  Amongst the voting activists from across Britain – those sent by their CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) to do something meaningful at Conference, this policy red meat is unsurprisingly going down very well.

And this brings us to the core strategic assumption which Ed Miliband made when he became Labour Leader and which will manifest itself throughout Conference Week.

In his view, the electorate of 2015 is ready to elect a Labour Party which is just a bit more Left of Centre than at any time since 1992.  Whilst many in the Party of a more Blairite tendency think such an assumption plus how Ed comes across on TV will lead to defeat, and are fearful of policy that leads to them being labelled old tax and spend Labour, plenty think it’s Labour’s time and that the public has moved on. 

Tristram Hunt says the "1997 buzz is back". I think that’s overegging it but many love hearing that the Labour Party in Ed’s view must "show that it gets that this country does not work for millions of working people" and that "Labour is going to change that. This is going to be one hell of a week.

 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 London, re-elected in 2014.

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