— Lucy Rigby is the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln. She attended this week’s Labour Party Conference in Manchester and upon her return on Thursday evening, she penned her impressions from the event.
This week’s Labour Party Conference in Manchester was a positive and successful one for Ed Miliband and for Labour as a whole. As proof, the polls offered Labour an improved position – Labour lead the Tories by 14% (Labour are on 45% and the Tories 31%). However, whilst the mood amongst MPs, candidates, councillors and activists returning home on Thursday was upbeat, we all recognise there is much more hard work that must happen between now and 2015.
As usual, the conference for me was made up of speeches in the hall, fringe events, meetings, receptions, canvassing sessions, dinners and the odd sight-seeing trip (this time to the fantastic People’s History Museum – a must visit).
I met with various shadow ministers to press to them Lincoln-specific issues. For example, on Wednesday I had a meeting with Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Transport, to discuss what a future Labour Government would do to improve Lincoln’s rail links.
One fringe event which I attended, put on by the group Pragmatic Radicalism, involved pitching a policy idea to the audience. I was lucky enough to win the competition with my idea, which was to give 16 year olds the vote, beef up citizenship education in schools and make it the responsibility of schools to register their pupils to vote. Low turnout and a lack of engagement in politics, particularly amongst younger people, is something I care passionately about and I’ll be doing lots more campaigning on this issue prior to 2015.
Ed’s speech on Tuesday afternoon was the high point of the week. The atmosphere in the hall as he spoke clearly, passionately, sensibly and – amazingly – without notes, about the challenges facing our country and how a Labour government would solve them, was fantastic. It wasn’t just those in the conference hall who embraced Labour’s ‘One Nation’ philosophy though, commentators across the political spectrum also praised it very highly. To give you a flavour of what I mean, the (usually centre-right) Telegraph described it as a “virtuoso platform display” and continued that the Tories (particularly David Cameron) were foolish to have previously underestimated Ed.
For me, One Nation Labour is exactly where I think we as a party need to be – by that I mean firmly on the centreground, but thinking innovatively and radically about how to best address the challenges of the 21st century. In a difficult economic climate, decisions that a government takes must be fair and there is no scope at all for wasting even a penny of taxpayers’ money.
Ed was right when he said that the current government entirely vacated the centreground with last year’s budget, when they voted to ensure that, despite most people feeling the pinch, those with the most should receive a tax cut. They further added to their rude, arrogant, class-obsessed image when Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell told police officers they were “plebs” and that they should “know their place”. As for wasting money and incompetence, we’ve seen plenty of examples since 2010, but the worst has got to be the West Coast Mainline fiasco, which will cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.
It wasn’t just the philosophy behind the speech that appealed to so many, it was also the detail that was set out around the priorities of involving large businesses in the provision of apprenticeships, improving vocational education, regulating the banks, helping small businesses and ensuring our economy works.
So, all in all, I returned to Lincoln knowing that my party is heading in the right direction. The challenge for me now, and for all MPs and candidates up and down the country, is to work even harder, to be even more determined, to prove to people that this government doesn’t deserve a second term and, most importantly, that this Labour Party is credible, competent and compassionate and that we have the right ideas and the right values to deserve your vote in 2015.
The 2012 Conservative Party Conference is being held at the ICC in Birmingham, from October 7-10.