Chris Hallam is a partner at law firm CMS
Following the dumpster fire that was the Conservative conference in Manchester, last week mercifully saw the final party conference of the season when Labour took its annual shindig 30 miles along the East Lancs Road to Liverpool. It seems both parties know how to get themselves to the North-West, even if Labour’s prevarication around HS2 means that a half-decent train service probably never will.
“Time and time again, governments… have promised they’ll build loads of houses. Guess what? They never do”
At the corporate-sponsored opening drinks reception, Labour’s deputy leader and instigator-in-chief, Angela Rayner, kicked things off by ruling out any increase in taxes in the event they come to power.
It was, I’m sure, purely coincidental that said drinks reception was sponsored by Zilch, a “buy now, pay later” credit firm. Given the state of the nation’s finances, one suspects that even if we’re not buying now, we’ll all be paying later, and for many years to come.
Zilch, meanwhile, is a fairly good byword to describe Labour’s visibility among the general population. Whether a consequence of allowing the Conservatives all the limelight to continually embarrass themselves, or simply a question of them being a bit – well – dull, it’s fair to say that Labour suffers from an identity (or perhaps non-identity) crisis that would give Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns” a run for their money.
Having accepted the corporate dollar to pay for their opening drinks, they could maybe learn a thing or two about raising brand awareness from firms in the beverage business. It’s unknown if the lager formerly touted as “reassuringly expensive” was flowing at their soiree, but “assuredly expensive” no doubt summarises the plan for the next few years. After 13 years of Conservative rule that’s generally been stodgy, has regularly left a bitter taste and on more than a few occasions has been tough on the bowels, the tagline from the brewers of Dublin’s most famous beverage might be one for Labour to adopt. Perhaps the best things will come to those who wait.
Of course, therein lies another of Labour’s challenges – 13 (and counting) years in opposition. It’s been so long since they were anywhere near office, it’s hard to envisage them in government. That said, after a corporate-sponsored conference filled with grandiose announcements regarding housebuilding and a promise to ensure no immigrant ends up in Rwanda, maybe they are looking more like the government with each passing day.
So, housebuilding. Yep, I took the bait and, dear readers, I feel we’ve been here before. Like pretty much every government over the past 30 years, Labour has made wide-sweeping and overly ambitious commitments about how many houses they are going to build if voters give them the gig.
Alas, we’ve heard this all before and I’ve written about it many times on the pages of this fair magazine. From Sunak, from Johnson, from May, Cameron, Brown and Blair. Not so much from Liz Truss but, you know, time wasn’t exactly on her side.
But time and time again, governments and whomever happens to be in opposition have promised they’ll build loads of houses. Guess what? They never do. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves proclaimed a Labour government would be “for the builders, not the blockers”. It would be lovely if it were so – but what are the odds we’ll all just end up stressed and aggravated, and reaching for the beta blockers.
Not the most thrilling of conferences then, and the closest we got to any stardust was when Sir Kier was ambushed by a bag of glitter during his speech. But maybe we need a bit more boring back in our politics after a decade-long soap opera. Of course, before any of that could happen, we’ve got a general election full of more of this nonsense to endure.
I think I need a drink.