Labour Party Conference – plenty of ideas to be had

Katie Howe was part of NCVO’s Parliamentary and Media Team and has now left NCVO. Her posts have been archived here for reference.

It’s amazing how much you can cram into three days. I’ve just returned from my first party conference full of ideas, feeling pretty exhausted having met lots of our members, and politicos too.

There is a real conference culture, which is great – everyone is keen to meet each other, to tell people about who they are, what they represent, and what Labour is doing (or should be doing) on their issues.

A sense of where Labour is heading ahead of 2015

The feeling at conference was that Labour came to Brighton with a real action plan; one to squash any perceptions of being a party lacking policies, by name-dropping big policy plans continuously. Of the fringe events I attended before the much anticipated Leader’s speech, Labour politicians drip-fed the audiences with nuggets of new ideas, and Ed Miliband’s speech built on those, packing in many new policies seeking to appeal to the wider electorate, as well as party members on the floor.

The theme of the whole conference was about living standards, with energy price freezes, the scrapping of the ‘bedroom tax’ and childcare being key. These ‘people policies’ seemed to really chime with the Labour members in attendance, and it seems that Miliband and the Labour group are fairly set on the cost of living narrative in the run up to 2015.

A chance to catch up with our members

The Lobbying Bill has been a cause for concern for many organisations, and the conference has been a good opportunity for us to fill some of our members in on what we’re working on, and discuss ways we can work together. With so many members in the same place at the same time, party conferences are also a chance for us to hear about the issues that they’re dealing with, and to meet each other in person.

Making the most of events

We also hosted an interview event with Lord Stewart Wood, key advisor and friend to Ed Miliband, chaired by Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which was a really valuable insight into how Labour works both in government and in opposition. The most important insight that I took from this interview was the reaffirmation from Lord Wood that charities can have a real influence over policy making and decision makers. And to make the most of this influence, organisations need to really think about who the best people to speak to are, and where the power lies on each issue.

Having become a peer in the last few years, Lord Wood also reminded us what a broad bunch sit in the House of Lords, all with different experiences and expertise, and the level in which they rely on the charity sector for much of their evidence and information. And as we’ve discussed before – the House of Lords is highly influential, and powerful in policy making, and so organisations should make sure to be engaging with them too.

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