Keir Starmer and Labour were turbocharged at their Liverpool shindig by Kamikwazi shooting the Truss government in both feet with his special financial operation. The conference proved a juicy money-spinner, with Starmer boasting to exhibitors it was the most profitable ever. He disclosed that companies and organisations paid £1m for stalls to peddle wares and ideas. The applause from those he was shaking down was the sound of corporate Britain calculating that Starmer is on the road to Downing Street.
The first question to Starmer at a behind-closed-doors session for City slickers included a surprise confession. Sherard Cowper-Coles, once our man in Kabul and now a senior adviser to the chair and group chief executive of HSBC, outed himself as a “proud member of the Labour Party”. Bankers for Labour is arguably the most significant development since Jeremy Corbyn.
The switch in hereditary monarchs led nervy Labour to replace the slogan “A Fresh Start With Labour” with “A Fairer, Greener Future” to avoid any hint of disrespect. The rail union Micks, Lynch and Whelan, most of the Unite delegation, a shed-load of MPs and at least one peer stayed out of the hall to avoid singing Gawd Save the King. One republican argued playing the anthem was sexist. “Labour’s never had a female leader in over 122 years and didn’t sing ‘God Save the Queen’ once during her 70 years,” sniffed the roundhead, “then along comes a man and we’re ordered to bellow praise to a King. What does that tell you?” It’s a theory anyway.
The left was largely marginalised if defiantly unbowed during all the Starmania. Revellers entering Dawn Butler’s Jamaica night were asked to show a recent photo of them on a picket line or pay a fiver. The workers, united, will always avoid entrance fees.
Corbyn, whispered a comrade, was on best behaviour – wrongly believing the whip may yet be restored to allow him to stand again in Islington North. He expressed solidarity with striking Liverpool dockers snubbed by the Labour leader, but at a Stop the War rally Corbyn avoided referencing Nato – criticism of the military alliance is a Starmer red line since Putin’s Ukraine invasion. The bad news for the past leader is his successor still won’t have him back.
Echoes of the early Blair era were everywhere in Liverpool. The door code at a boozy bash thrown by Woburn Partners, a communications firm set up by James Robinson, an adviser to Tom (soon to be Lord?) Watson when he was deputy leader, suggested many believe things can only get better. The pin number was 1997.
This article appears in the 28 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The Truss Delusion