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26 September 2011

Labour conference lookahead | Monday 26 September

The who, when and where of the Labour conference.

By Samira Shackle

Look out for

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, will address conference soon after midday. He will tell delegates that the party must work to restore economic credibility in the way that it did before Tony Blair was elected. To this end, he will pledge to set out strict fiscal rules for a future Labour government in the party’s election manifesto. He will also promise to spend any windfall from the sale of bank shares on paying off the national debt, rather than on boosting public spending.

Balls will stress that spending cuts are here to stay. “We still know today what we recognised in 1994,” he will say. “We will never have credibility unless we have the discipline and the strength to take tough decisions.” In an interview with the Independent ahead of the speech, he said no-one in the shadow cabinet would make any promises at this stage to undo any government cuts.

He will, however, reiterate that rising unemployment and stalled economic growth prove that Labour was right to advocate a slower pace of deficit reduction. As the coalition continues to blame Labour’s mismanagement for the current crisis, Balls will stress the role of the global crisis, warning in stark terms: “The country and the whole world is facing the threat of a lost decade of economic stagnation.”

Last year, Balls was accused of being overly negative when he implied that George Osborne’s economic policies would cause Britain to slip into a double-dip recession. Now, that warning looks prescient.

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Signs of trouble?

Labour is in the midst of a two year policy review, so policy promises are unlikely to be on ground. Three and a half years ahead of the election, Labour has the problem that it cannot set out a full alternative plan — but without this detail, will struggle to regain credibility. It can get around this by saying what it would do if in government now, something which Ed Miliband did at the weekend with his tuition fee proposals.

The results of yesterday’s Refounding Labour vote wil be revealed. It is an extensive reform of the way internal leadership elections work.

On the fringe

Does Labour have an enterprise plan? Chuka Umunna, shadow minister for small business and enterprise, takes part in a panel discussion chaired by the New Statesman’s political correspondent, Rafael Behr, from 5pm. More details.

Conference timetable

Morning – 9.30am: Conference opens

Welsh Report from Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales

Report from Glenis Willmott MEP, leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party

Panel discussion of “Britain in the World”, with Harriet Harman, shadow secretary of state for international development, Jim Murphy, shadow secretary of state for defence, and Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary

“Prosperity and Work” – speech by Ed Balls MP, shadow chancellor of the exchequer

12.45pm: Break

Afternoon – 2.15pm: Conference reconvenes

Speech by John Denham, shadow secretary for business, innovation and skills: “Working Britain Today”

Speech by Maria Eagle, shadow secretary of state for transport

Speech by Liam Byrne, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions

Scottish Report from Ann McKechin, shadow secretary of state for Scotland, and Iain Gray MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party

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