The Labour Party came together for its annual jamboree in Liverpool this week – and they were joined not just by the media hordes that always accompany political conferences, but by thousands of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and consultants – all wanting to rub shoulders with the party who they anticipate will be in government by this time next year.
That is not, of course, a boast that you will hear from anyone from the Labour leadership. ‘No complacency, fighting for every vote, a long way to go’ is their mantra.
But it was hard not to contrast the interest, the buzz, the excitement that surrounded the ACC arena in Liverpool this week, with the rather damp squib of the Conservative Party affair that took place in Manchester seven days earlier.
Contrast also Labour celebrating the achievements of its previous governments and prime ministers, from 1945, 1964, and 1997, to Rishi Sunak’s trashing of all that had gone before him, from John Major through to Liz Truss.
And a further contrast for political anoraks like me was Labour 2019 to Labour 2023.
For in just four years, the party has been transformed from a basket case that was all but wiped out in the General Election that year, to a professional outfit, capable of at least presenting itself as an alternative government to the electorate.
Credit for that must go to Keir Starmer. Booed, heckled, and slow handclapped during his conference speech in 2021 – yes just two years ago – here on Tuesday afternoon he was met with roars of approval, fourteen ovations during his address, and ‘sparkling’ reviews of his sixty-minute speech, even from the Tory-leaning members of the press corps.
Had you told political commentators two years ago that a Labour leader would be cheered by his party from the rafters for preaching public sector reform, spending restraint, and standing in solidarity with Israel, they would have told you that you were living in fairy dairy land.
If you had suggested that Labour could win a General Election in 2024, they’d have called for a straitjacket.
However, through his quiet determination, commitment, and discipline, Starmer has dragged his party back from the brink of irrelevancy to the cusp of power.
A man that is often characterised as ‘boring’ is credited with turning around a broken Department of Public Prosecutions when he led that organisation. He has transformed a broken political organisation in double-quick time. Who is to say he can’t fix ‘Broken Britian’ if he is given the opportunity to do so?