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Labour Party Conference Special

Hamas’ horrifying attack on Israel last Saturday dominated headlines throughout the week, with the leaders of all the UK’s main parties condemning the organisation as terrorists. The events served as an unexpected backdrop to this year’s Labour Party Conference, and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly jetted off to Tel Aviv to express the UK’s “unwavering solidarity” with Israel.


Welcome to the weekly roundup from Navigate Politics, bringing you all the top news, publications and movements from UK politics over the past seven days, ensuring you’re fully briefed on the top stories ahead of the weekend. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.


Driving the Week at Labour Conference 🌹


Keir Starmer glistened like a disco ball as he addressed the Labour Party Conference, pledging to deliver a “decade of national renewal” if Labour win the next General Election. After being covered in glitter by a protestor, Starmer set out how the party will ‘get Britain its future back’ with a focus on economic growth, safer streets, cheaper homegrown power, better opportunities and a reformed NHS. He underlined that he was “totally focused on the interests of working people” and said that under his leadership, Labour will be a “party of service… country first, party second.” The main focus of his speech was on housing as he announced a package of reforms to the planning system to build 1.5 million homes over the next Parliament. Describing himself as a housebuilding Yimby (yes in my back yard), not a Nimby, the plan includes: a housing recovery plan to deliver the biggest boost to affordable housing in a generation; new towns with access to green spaces, reliable transport links and bustling high streets; further devolution to Mayors, with stronger powers over planning and control over housing investment; a ‘planning passport’ for urban brownfield development; and first dibs for first-time buyers. He argued that “getting Britain building again is critical for economic growth” and said it was Labour’s most important mission.


Coming Up Next Week 📆


Parliament is back for a full five day week, although with the King’s Speech just over three week’s away, there isn’t a great deal left to do, and so the Commons starts on Monday with two general debates in Government time, and ends the week with two backbench business debates and private members’ bills, leaving just Tuesday and Wednesday for legislation.


Hamas’ attack on Israel, and Israel’s siege of Gaza will be high on the agenda, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly due to update MPs on Monday, and the PM certain to face questions on Wednesday. There’s even the prospect of an emergency debate on humanitarian aid for those stuck in Gaza – including the First Minister of Scotland’s mother-in-law.


The Speaker of the House of Commons – Sir Lindsay Hoyle – will be expecting answers from the Government over announcements made on changes to environmental targets and other announcements made since Parliament rose for the Conference Recess. Whilst it is typical for all governments to make new policy announcements at their party conferences, the PM’s speech on Net Zero in Downing Street, just two days after the Commons rose, broke parliamentary convention and ruffled some feathers in the Speaker’s House.


The Week in Stats 📉


1.5 million – new homes promised within the first five years of the next Parliament by Starmer in his Conference speech


140 – flights cancelled due to the Luton Airport car park fire, with 1,200 vehicles possibly being damaged


6 – seconds for Keir Starmer’s security team to get to the stage after a protestor covered him in glitter


£2 – the bus fare cap has been extended until the 31st December 2024


1 – new introduced policy agreed upon by both the Conservatives and Labour parties - the smoking ban – with Rachel Reeves stating it as the “one sensible thing they came up with”


£652m – how much former Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone agreed to pay in a tax fraud settlement


43 – the number of SNP MPs after Lisa Cameron defected to the Conservatives


Labour Conference Roundup 📰


Fiscal responsibility, windfall taxes and domestic prosperity – Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves called for increased domestic manufacturing on prosperity and security grounds; pledged to bring forward a new Charter for Budget Responsibility to ensure independent reviews of significant tax and spending changes; promised to implement a windfall tax on energy companies and require “online tech giants to pay their fair share”; and announced Labour would appoint a Covid Corruption Commissioner to “claw back the money” from Covid fraud cases.


Ukraine and Israel (unsurprisingly) – In a speech overshadowed by events in the Middle East, Shadow Foreign Sec David Lammy stated he “utterly” condemned Hamas’ attacks but warned that a lasting peace would not be achieved until Israel was secure and Palestine existed as a sovereign state. He also reiterated Labour’s support for Ukraine; stressed the importance of relationships with Europe; and pledged to appoint a special envoy for those wrongly detained abroad.


Cracking down on people smuggling, shoplifting and police misconduct – Shadow Home Sec Yvette Cooper lambasted the Government over low prosecution rates, particularly in cases of rape, and promised to establish specialist rape investigation units in every police force. She also pledged to create a new cross-border unit to combat people smuggling; pledged to crack down on rampant shoplifting; and introduce new vetting and misconduct rules to increase confidence in the police.


Continued support for Ukraine and better relationships abroad – Shadow Defence Sec John Healey reiterated Labour’s commitment to continuing support for Ukraine and pledged a “£2 billion spend to rearm Britain, resupply Ukraine and boost British industry”. He added Labour would strike new defence pacts with Germany, France and the EU; speak up for the Armed Forces and veterans; and direct British defence investment to British business


Reducing court backlogs and reoffending rates – Shadow Justice Sec Shabana Mahmood accused the Government of having “failed to keep the public safe”; criticised low crime reporting rates due to the “courts backlog”; pledged to halve violence against women and girls and increase confidence in the police; and emphasised the importance of balancing punishment and rehabilitation.


Going green on energy – Shadow Energy Sec Ed Miliband set out how Labour’s 2030 Net Zero mission would seek to double onshore wind, treble solar, quadruple offshore wind, and invest in nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and tidal power; pledged to support oil and gas workers as the industries are phased out in future decades; promised that the state-owned ‘GB Energy’ would be a “tool for economic justice”, and to introduce an Energy Independence Act.


Science = success – Shadow Science Sec Peter Kyle promised he would oversee the spreading of prosperity and opportunity delivered by technological advances across the UK; celebrated the importance of life sciences to the UK’s economy; and outlined how the UK would boost innovation by cutting red tape and putting research and development funding on a long-term footing.


Swinging left on employment and housing – Shadow Levelling Up Sec Anegla Rayner set out Labour’s plans for a New Deal for Working People which would increase working rights and ban zero hours contracts and fire and rehire practices, which she pledged to introduce within 100 days of a Labour Government. On housing she pledged to “deliver the biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation”; ban ‘no fault’ evictions; give first-time buyers “first dibs” on new developments in their communities; and abolish leaseholds.


Powering prosperity with the green agenda – Shadow Business Sec Jonathan Reynolds lambasted the Government’s “divisive” rhetoric on Net Zero and pledged that under Labour “decarbonisation will never mean deindustrialisation”. He said that Labour’s Industrial Strategy would bring together their Green Prosperity Plan, planning reforms and changes to the Apprenticeship Levy; and pledged to support high streets, small businesses and the services sector.


Healing the NHS – Shadow Health Sec Wes Streeting promised to “turn the NHS on its head… from hospital to community, analogue to digital, sickness to prevention”; stressed that NHS reform was more important than investment, while also promising to deliver extra funding to tackle hospital backlogs; pledged to deliver 700,000 more dentistry appointments each year; committed to “grip the immediate crisis in social care”; and promised to crack down on junk food advertising and the vaping industry.


Maths at 6, not 16 – Shadow Education Sec Bridget Phillipson reiterated Labour’s plans to end private schools’ tax breaks; announced Labour would develop an ‘Early Years Plan’; pledged to deliver school breakfast clubs to transform children’s speech and language skills; stated maths should be “better taught at 6, never mind 16”; and pledged to “change the way students pay for their time at university”.


Rail nationalisation and local control over transport – Shadow Transport Sec Louise Haigh reiterated Labour’s pledge to nationalise rail services; promised to take action on “rip off prices at the petrol pump” and “unfair car insurance fees”; enable local authorities to bring their bus networks into public ownership; and announced she would commission an independent inquiry into the costs and failures of HS2’s delivery.


Supporting the creative industries – Shadow Culture Sec Thangam Debbonaire celebrated the importance and success of the UK’s creative industries and announced Labour would bring forward ‘Space to Create’, the “first national culture infrastructure plan”.


Skills, mental health and trade unions – Shadow Work and Pensions Sec Liz Kendall announced that Labour would work to help the two million people out of work due to sickness or disability back into the workplace; tackle the root causes of worklessness by recruiting “thousands more” mental health staff and “overhauling skills”; strengthen trade unions to stop people “working on poverty pay”; and reform Universal Credit “to protect people when they need it, and to genuinely make work pay”.


Around the World 🌍


President Netanyahu set up an emergency wartime Government, as Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on Saturday. Fighting in the area has escalated all week, as the militant group attacked and killed hundreds of Israelis, taking hundreds more as hostage. Israel has currently cut off all supplies including energy, water and food to the Gaza Strip, warning that they will not be turned back on until all hostages are freed. The wartime Government includes Netanyahu, senior opposition rival Benny Gantz and defence minister Yoav Gallant, as Netanyahu pledged to “crush and destroy” the Hamas militants on a televised appearance on Wednesday night. It is expected that Israel will launch a ground assault on the Gaza Strip in the coming days. At present, both the death tolls for Israelis and Palestinians has surpassed 1000.


All MPs of the Zimbabwean main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change, have been suspended for 6 parliamentary sessions and will undergo a two month pay suspension following a protest in the parliamentary chambers. Members were protesting the decision by the Speaker to declare 15 of the Party’s seats vacant, after he received a fake letter (littered with spelling mistakes and inaccuracies), from someone claiming to be the CCC’s General Secretary (NB: the Party does not have a General Secretary), stating that the selected 15 members were no longer affiliated with the CCC and should be removed from Parliament. The CCC’s leader has demanded the 15 MPs be reinstated.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced a blow at the weekend as all three of the Parties in his coalition saw a fall in support, in state elections held in Bavaria and Hesse. As expected both states were won by the main Conservative opposition, as strongholds, but more worryingly for the Chancellor was the increase in votes for far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party, taking 18% of the votes in Hesse and almost 15% in Bavaria, a Party which is pro-Kremlin, uses xenophobic tropes and shows contempt for Germany’s democratic system. The results send a message to the coalition who must appease the AfD voters to ensure they keep votes in the next set of state elections next year, particularly addressing immigration.


Slovakia’s leader Robert Fico has agreed to form a coalition Government following last month’s parliamentary elections. Whilst it is not yet clear how the new Government will fill ministerial positions between parties, Fico’s main pledge involves halting military aid for Kyiv, though he has denied being pro-Russia. Fico has previously served as Prime Minister for Slovakia, but was forced to resign in 2018 following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.


Ugandan MPs voted down Government proposal to allow 15 year old girls the right to birth control, despite the high levels of pregnancy in the country. Throughout the Covid pandemic the rate of teenage pregnancies sharply rose, with nearly a quarter of 15-19 year old girls in Uganda either pregnant or mothers.


Committee Corridor 📜


Rising sea levels, contributed to by Arctic ice melting, could risk 1.5 million UK properties flooding, so argues the Environmental Audit Committee in a report out this week. The Committee have concluded that growing evidence suggests changes in the Arctic could make weather events in the UK more extreme.


The emergence of non-fungible tokens in the world of art has led to the risk of widespread copyright infringement, so concludes the latest report out by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who have also argued that the promotion of crypto assets in professional sport is putting supporters at risk of financial harm and potentially damaging the reputations of clubs.


Key Movements 🔁


Lisa Cameron MP has defected from SNP to Conservative, stating that she quit due to her experience in a “toxic and bullying SNP Westminster group”. She was welcomed to the Conservative Party by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross; meanwhile, SNP leader Humza Yousaf called on her to step down to allow a by-election.


Chris Grayling MP, former Transport Secretary, has announced he will step down at the next General Election.


Rob Bishton has been appointed the new Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, effective from 21 October.


Jackie Jacob, Home England’s Director of Affordable Housing Grants, has announced her retirement at the end of the year.


Michèle Dix has been appointed to the National Infrastructure Commission by the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.


Judith Donovan, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill and Ajit Lalvani have been reappointed as trustees of the Science Museum Group.


Robert Thomas and Rebecca White have been approved by the Lord Chancellor as members of the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, representing voluntary organisations.


This Week’s Polls 📊


86% of Britons believe that the NHS is in a bad state, according to a new YouGov poll. The survey inquired about the state of 12 key public services, and a majority of Britons indicated that 10 out of the 12 are in a bad state. These services include schools (63%), courts/justice systems (57%), and the police (69%). Interestingly, individuals who have interacted with these services within the last year were more likely to express dissatisfaction with their state.


89% of those who voted for the Labour Party in the last election would vote for them again, according to a study conducted by Redfield and Wilton. In contrast, only 57% of those who voted for the Conservative Party would do the same. Following the Conservative Conference and in the aftermath of the Labour Conference, it appears that voting intentions for the Conservative party have dropped by two points, now standing at 27%, while Labour's support remains at 43%. Speaking of how parties are faring in the polls, the Beer Party in Vienna is polling at 12%. They are promising voters a beer fountain for the city and a monthly barrel of beer for Austrian households. Perhaps the SNP should take a page out of their book, as they are currently polling just 1%.


39% of Britons support HS2 plans for a high speed rail line between London and Birmingham, according to Deltapoll. Britons were asked opinion on both phases of HS2, with the second being Birmingham to Manchester, and responses were quite similar across the board and support for phase 2 being 36% and opposition being 35%. Interestingly, support for phase 1 was very similar among party lines, with 43% of Conservatives and Labour voters in favour. However, there were some differences in regard to phase 2, with Conservatives’ support dropping to 29%, and Labour at 47%.


62% of individuals from 31 counties have experienced stress to the extent that it has significantly affected their daily lives, according to a new Ipsos study. In observance of World Mental Health Day, Ipsos posed various questions related to mental health. One of the findings shows that women are more likely to report that stress has impacted their lives, with 36% of women mentioning that stress had affected their daily lives several times in the past year, compared to 26% of men.


Think-Tanking 💭


The IPPR published research revealing how public services are “failing to deliver for citizens”, arguing that policymakers will need to combine both funding and reform to create a smarter state. This report starts to set out the reforms it argues are needed to deliver on this.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies published analysis on how to reform the skills system, in light of a significant decline in investment in adult education and training. The report sets out five key recommendations including reform of the apprenticeship levy.


The IFS also shared research documenting the patterns of school and neighbourhood segregation in Scotland and England, with findings suggesting that school choice environment is related to levels of segregation.


The Institute for Government released a paper on retention in public services, highlighting how the Government has focused on recruitment of more staff whilst neglecting to keep existing workforces motivated and in post. This report assesses the scale, impact, causes and solutions to retention problems in three key public services: the NHS, schools and the police.


Demos published a paper on the UK’s water resilience exploring growing public awareness of the risk of drought and water shortages in the UK, the critical need to maintain access to water and the lack of government investment in this area. The paper calls on the government and water companies to work together “to ensure that everyone can access safe, usable water in the decades ahead.”


Onward published a report on the ‘Case for Conservatism’, which outlines the case for drawing on “conservative tradition of thought to improve and advance the prosperity and flourishing of our national community in a changing world,” and lays out the path for British renewal.


You’ve Got to Laugh 😂


If you missed the sparkling start to Keir Starmer’s conference speech, then you may also have missed the Shadow Cabinet reaction, thankfully caught on film for us all to enjoy, by the News Agents podcast. It’s fair to say Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves was not best pleased by the glittering reception the Labour Leader unexpectedly received on stage. Take it away Rachel!


It’s also fair to say that capitalism is well and truly back in the Labour Party, with the Labour press and merchandise team making the most of Sir Keir’s shimmering performance, by immediately launching a ‘Sparkle with Starmer’ t-shirt, the first batch of which has already sold out. Have no fear, the £20 t-shirt can be pre-ordered, for delivery at the beginning of November. The perfect Christmas gift for the New-New Labour lefty in your life.

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