As the first day of Labour’s conference came to a close, LabourList hosted a ‘winning again’ rally in a dark corner of the Grand Hotel. A bunch of Labour speakers, including Eddie Izzard and Owen Jones, spoke about the party’s general election defeat and the glorious rise of Jeremy Corbyn. The two most contrasting speakers were Tristram Hunt, the former shadow education secretary, and Ian Lavery, the former NUM chief and shadow trade unions minister. The contrasting receptions Hunt and Lavery received shows which direction the party is heading.
Hunt, one of the most prominent modernisers who is popping up at fringe events all over Brighton, was cheered and booed for a joke about David Cameron and the pig’s head allegations:
‘We meet after a terrible general election loss and a bruising leadership election. Many of us might be feeling like the insider of a pig’s head after a Piers Gaveston society ball. And we know the Prime Minister certainly has. But we need to pick ourselves up, get the taste of defeat out of our mouth and focus on renewing. We now need to show we can support our new leader Jeremy Corbyn and has plan to take Labour back into power.’
But Hunt’s insistence that the party can only win again from the centre ground received a more tepid response:
‘We need to understand the loss of our general election in May because on economics, on welfare, on immigration, the Labour party was not trusted and the truth is that in opposition, you win from the centre ground and in office, you move the centre ground in a progressive direction and form the consensus. So I’d make a plea to the leadership: let’s now allow the multiple joys of internal debate go on forever.’
Lavery on the other hand, was given a hero’s welcome for a raucous speech about this ‘very historic time in politics’:
‘This weekend, it’s 100 years since the death of the first leader of the Labour party: Keir Hardy — a 100 years brothers. I think when Keir Hardy walked into the corridors of powers all those years ago, defying convention, wanting to represent not the wealthy but quite the opposite – those who didnd’t have voice in society. He was a great trade unionist, he was a miner and when he walked into the corridors of power with his deer stalker hat and his pipe, he was vilified from that down onwards.
‘I think Keir Hardy over the last 100 years would have been turning in his grave at some of the things our party have been looking to do [round of applause]. Let me tell you comrades, a 100 years on since his death he’d be absolutely cook-a-hop with the direction of the party under the new leadership.’
The events at Labour conference are broadly split into two groups: the Corbynites and the modernisers. The new guard, who are now running the party, are enjoying the prominence the anti-austerity rallies and debates about trade unions are receiving. The modernisers on the other hand are licking their wounds and admitting (to decent crowds) they have no choice but to accept the new reality. It’s rare for both of these camps to come together and when they do, the videos above show which side the activists prefer.