The Starmer army are doing all the Very Serious things necessary to convince the commentariat that they’re Ready For Office. Whether it’s fiscally credible policies, schmoozing at Davos or the reassuring sight of ‘boring, snoring’ Rachel Reeves, the party are straining every sinew to depict themselves as responsible realists. The left is on the run with Keir-leaders in safe seats; there’s money pouring in from the woker parts of the City and even George Osborne is saying nice things.
But has Labour now stumbled across a new and original wheeze to help them seem like the natural party of government? Traditionally, Labour has hosted its party conference on the final weekend of September, with the Tories following suit on the first weekend of October. In 2022 for instance, Labour hosted their jamboree in Liverpool from Sunday 25 until Wednesday 28 September; the Conservative equivalent was held a few days later from Sunday 2 until Wednesday 5 October.
But this year, for the first time in recent memory, Labour will hold their conference the week after the Conservatives hold theirs and not the week before. This year, Labour conference will be Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 October, after the Tories have had their shindig in their usual slot of the first weekend of October. Interestingly, Labour will also return to Liverpool for the second year in a row, breaking the usual pattern of parties alternating host cities. The last time Labour did this was Brighton in 2004 and 2005 – back when they were indeed the natural party of government.
Just a simple calendar clash? Or a sign of designs on No. 10? Labour insiders were cool towards suggestions that the move amounted to any great Mandelson-esque masterplan. ‘I wouldn’t read any significance into it other than venue availability,’ retorted one of the bright young things in Victoria Street.