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.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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