New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
23 September 2019updated 23 Jul 2021 9:05am

There’s a feeling of unease in the air at Labour conference

The applause (or lack thereof) says more than the speeches.

By Ailbhe Rea

As Emily Thornberry addressed the Labour Party conference this afternoon, it was telling what received the most applause.

Walking a delicate tightrope of pushing for the party to back Remain while maintaining a front of unity, the shadow foreign secretary only alluded to the change of position she would like to see from the leadership, and emphasised the importance of “unity and discipline” and “keep[ing] our eyes on the prize”. But when she told the conference hall that is was right to hold another referendum and declared “and I for one will be out there campaigning for remain!”, the crowd broke into rapturous applause, many getting to their feet. 

By contrast, when she referred to Jeremy Corbyn as “my friend, my neighbour…. and our next prime minister” – a line that had elicited huge, hopeful cheers when applied to Jo Swinson at Liberal Democrat conference last week – the audience simply clapped politely, with no obvious enthusiasm.  

It’s a small example of the overall mood here. Members of all persuasions report a loss of buoyancy from last year, an uneasy feeling in the air. Bigger than the immediate debate over whether the party backs remain in the next election, there is a broader struggle to launch a clear pitch to the nation amid the noise of Brexit, which the party knows is not its strong subject. The odds of Corbyn being the next prime minister are still much higher than those for Jo Swinson, but members are responding to their relative feelings of momentum: one is a party with the wind in its sails and nowhere to go except up, the other a divided party fearing the fight on two fronts that a general election before Brexit will bring. 

The Labour membership will still clap politely when their leader is hailed as the next prime minister, but there’s no heart behind that response. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges