Labour conference lookahead | 28 September

The who, when and where of the Labour conference.

Look out for

Andy Burnham, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, will give a speech admitting that the party should have done more in government for the 50 per cent of young people who do not go to university. He will tell delegates that university is not the be all and end all of higher education and that those who want to take an apprenticeship or go into straight into work from school should be given greater support by the state.

He will also make the case for the introduction of a "Modern Baccalaureate" as a replacement for the the Coalition's "English Baccalaureate", which he will describe as part of "Gove's narrow, backward-looking vision". Finally, Burnham will attack the government for stripping funds from programmes established under Labour to help "the most needy".

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is to announce the establishment of a Labour review into policing in England and Wales led by Lord Stevens amid what she will describe as the "chaos and confusion" of police reform under the Coalition. She will say the aim of the review is to "build on the best of British and international policing. Including experts from here and abroad" and that Labour wants to "[work] with the police not [try] to undermine them". Like Burnham, she will also go on the offensive against the government by accusing it of being "weak on crime"and claiming that Labour is "the party of law and order".

Signs of trouble?

Following his high-risk and potentially divisive speech yesterday, Ed Miliband could be facing some awkward questions about the direction of his leadership at the leader's Q&A. The Blairites seems particularly disgruntled about his references to "predatory capitalism" and may take the opportunity to remind Miliband of their mantra that elections are "won and lost on the centre-ground".

On the fringe

"How can we empower head teachers to improve our schools?" Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Labour in discussion with theNew Statesman's Rafael Behr (chair) and other guests. More details.

Conference timetable

Morning - 9.30am: Conference opens

Panel discussion of "Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities" with Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, and Tessa Jowell, shadow secretary of state for the Cabinet Office.

12.15pm - Break

Afternoon - 2.15pm: Conference reconvenes

Health -- addresses from John Healey, shadow secretary of state for health Education, and Andy Burnham, shadow secretary of state for education.

5.15pm: Q&A with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party

James Maxwell is a Scottish political journalist. He is based between Scotland and London.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.