07:41 Monday 28th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Labour’s annual conference is underway in Brighton. It’s something the moon was clearly aware of, because it turned red for the occasion. It is of course the first conference of the party under its new Leader Jeremy Corbyn. The fellow left winger John McDonnell makes his first speech as Shadow Chancellor this lunchtime, but the party has avoided a clash over nuclear weapons, with an expected debate on Trident not now going ahead. I’m joined from Brighton now by our political correspondent Paul Rowley, who has been to more party conferences than you’ve had hot dinners. Morning Paul.
PAUL ROWLEY: Good morning. Before you were born Dotty I have to tell you. It’s my thirty sixth year of covering party conferences. I was very young though when I started.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So how significant is this one?
PAUL ROWLEY: It’s going to be different. Even a couple of months ago the idea of a left wing pacifist vegetarian pensioner leading the Labour Party looked about as likely as Leicester City topping the Premier League. Well they did for a bit funnily enough. But you cannot question Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate. He is backed by the largest ever majority by a Labour Leader, including their most successful election winner in Tony Blair. He got almost 60% of the party vote. He seems to have energised parts of the electorate who either haven’t been engaged before, or have been disillusioned in recent times. Labour haven’t just doubled their membership Dotty since the election. They’ve actually put on an extra 60,000 in the last fortnight since ‘Jezz we can’ as the slogan goes took charge. Now normally on occasions like this these conferences are incredibly stage managed. They’re all on message, nothing is left to chance. Well here’s a Leader who wasn’t supported by most of his MPs. Some have refused to serve on his front bench. He disagrees with the party on most things, on the economy, on foreign policy, on defence policy, on welfare, on Europe. I suspect there’s even a dispute about whether or not Nick Grimshaw is any good on X-factor. Received wisdom suggests this ain’t gonna work. But hey, you never know. This may be, maybe, a new way of doing things.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So the new Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, is taking to the podium at around lunchtime. What ar we expecting?
PAUL ROWLEY: Again it should be fascinating, because here’s somebody like Jeremy Corbyn who’s in his ’60s. He’s never held party office. He’s rebelled more than any other Labour MP including his Leader. And it’s his job to sell the idea of economic credibility to a public who for the last two elections have not trusted the Labour Party largely. Both he and his Leader are opposed to the Government’s austerity programme, but what’s the first thing they do? Their first policy announcement on the economy is they have committed to balancing the books and have a budget surplus by the end of this parliament. So they’re being cautious at this stage, indeed they’re compromising on this and on a number of issues. One change though Dotty is that John McDonnell will suggest what’s called a Robin Hood tax on the financial institutions, on stock market transactions, something rejected by his predecessor Ed Balls. Indeed the Chancellor George Osborne says it would harm the City. But John McDonnell was telling us last night, don’t expect too much this morning. It’s not going to be as he puts it, one of his normal rants. He says it might even be stultifyingly boring. But then again, this is a guy who in his Who’s Who entry described his hobbies as ‘fomenting the overthrow of capitalism.’ Something tells me Dotty he might just tone down that one a little this lunchtime.