Who wants a Tory babygro for Christmas?

Last-minute (and disastrous) gift ideas from the political parties

I wonder who buys these things. There must be someone, right now, walking around wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Big Government = Big Problems on it. That's a Tory one, obviously. As is the slightly more direct: "Release Your Inner Tory" T-shirt, which appears to depict a lock and chains exploding as said "Inner Tory" bursts out of the stomach of the unsuspecting wearer. It's like something out of Alien.

Other gift ideas from the Conservative Party include the Tea for Change mug, the delightful "Bye Bye Bureaucracy" poster, and the must-have Blue is the New Green bag. And then, of course, there's the babygro with "Future Prime Minister" printed on it in bright green capitals. Perhaps this is an unwitting reference to the youthful looks of Cameron and Osborne. Or maybe they're thinking that even Cameron isn't young enough and they should start pitching to the über-youth market NOW by recruiting the under-twos. Either way, the idea of buying one of these for a baby is pretty horrifying.

So how does Labour match up? The list of items is rather short, it has to be said. Compared to the Tories' endless array of dodgy garb and kitchenware, the Labour offerings are paltry.

There's the standard diary, tie, pin badge, postcards, and then my personal favourite: the NHS mug. This comes with the helpful instruction: "Ideal for post-campaign session cup of tea!" No novelty babygros for Labour, then. Just slightly sanctimonious messages hinting at the value of our health service. Happy Christmas!

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.