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Fabian Summer Conference: LIVE BLOG

1740: we've got to have the courage of our convictions, represent the whole of the country and be clear in our message: vision, values and vehicle. And with that the conference is over. Thanks to everyone who came and anyone who...


1740: we’ve got to have the courage of our convictions, represent the whole of the country and be clear in our message: vision, values and vehicle.

And with that the conference is over. Thanks to everyone who came and anyone who read this blog. See you next time and check back the Fabian Review online on Monday for conference reaction and analysis.

1736: Putting round a leaflet saying Simon Hughes voted for cutting the top rate of tax isn’t negative campaigning – it’s positive because it’s holding MPs who are failing their communities to account.

1732:Harman says that the Tories are the enemy, but Lib Dems have broken their promises and we should point that out. They betrayed their people and Labour must say so.

But this ins’t enough to win Lib Dem voters. We have to have the candidates there in Lib Dem areas to bring them over to Labour and the messages.

1727: Labour needs a substantial change in mindset from 1997. We had a retaining seats strategy – now the job is different. Labour MPs have to get themselves reelected – and get someone else elected. We mustn’t focus on where we are already strong – that should no longer be the party’s funding focus and campaigning focus.

1723: Harman continues that this means it’s important to have candidates in all wards. Recently Labour has had low candidate coverage – must have a Labour candidate for every vacancy. This will build up share of the vote. There is no such thing as ‘paper candidates’ – they are pioneer candidates.

1720: That’s it for Question Time. Andy Harrop now summing up the themes of the conference before Harriet Harman closes the conference.

Harriet Harman says her first job for her constituents is to make sure we have a Labour government. All the focus has to be on winning in 2015.

We need to be a one nation Labour party. If you are seeking to govern, you have to govern for the whole country. We can learn from Obama’s 50 states strategy. A country wide strategy is not just good politically it’s important organisationally.

1710: Mark Ferguson asks the panelists how we have a united party – in reference to the GMB Progress dispute.

Hart says we shouldn’t fear difference. We need a radical programme but Unite will be out campaigning what ever the policy because a bad Labour government is better than a Tory government. But the next Labour governemnt will be a good one.

Curran says Labour is at its best when it has a core programme for the people it seeks to represent.

Adonis says we need a bit of the spirit of 1945 – unity and passionate conviction that it was Labour that stood between the country and a return to the 1930s. We’re in a profound crisis now which the present govenrmet is intensifying – we’ll win if people think we have credible answers.

Kellner thanks the unions for attacking Progress as it has brought the organisation no end of exposure and could they turn their fire on the Fabians for more of the same?

He goes on to say that we could also do some learning from Tony Blair – he wanted Labour to be the political wing of the British people, that’s what we need to get back to.

1706: Curran agrees with Kellner that we can’t predict the economy of the future, but we need to learn the lessons from the past where too many eggs were put in the financial services basket. We need a much broader economy. Procurement could be used much more effectively by government and much more strategically.

Part of the Europe problem Curran says it that it tells you what you can’t do not what you can do. We need to emphasis the cooperation of ordinary people not a Europe where decisions are taken by elites.

1657: Adonis warns people not think of manufacturing as part of our past. It is crucial to our future.

Peter Kellner introduces 2 discordant notes. First that it’s not Labour’s job to say what we should make or build. The job is to create a framework to help the British equivalents of Steve Jobs. We shouldn’t pick individual winners.

Second, pay day loans: the interest rates are outrageous, but if you just ban that and do nothing else they will be replaced by illegal loan sharks. If you are going to stamp out like Ed Miliband suggested, got to put something in place first to provide alternative reasonably placed alternatives.

Steve Hart responds to this by saying Unite is setting up its own credit union.

1645: Questions: Europe has not delivered what people expected. Need to tell people Europe hasn’t worked – how can we make a bold case for a social democratic Europe?

– Given our size in the global company do we really need to make improvements to manufacturing and what should we make that we’re not already making?

– Labour needs to do more to communicate what the government is doing wrong – how do we do that?

– Can we have more Tories critiquing their own policy – many commentators already are?

Lord Adonis says that having campaigned for 20 years to get into Europe we must in an unthinking way walk into an ‘in out’ referendum.

On the economy and manufacturing, Adonis says we need to be good at everything – manufacturing, the creative sector etc. An example of old style making things that is close to his heart – trains. We now don’t have a single UK based train manufacturer. We should be determined that the train comes back. Tens of thousands of jobs could be created in that industry alone.

1642: Steve Hart says we will end up devolving power more to Scotland so need to discuss the constitutional settlement.

More broadly Labour needs to be a radical alternative – the situation is more like 1945 than the 1970a, a new settlement for Britain is needed. Core is going to be jobs and growth against austerity. Labour needs to be like an iphone – something that people go wow at but serves all kinds of useful purposes.

1638: Margaret Curran is pleased Scottish independence is the first question as it has huge implications for all of Britain, not just Scotland. Labour should argue that all of Britain wants Scotland to remain part of it. Ed Miliband is trying to rebuild Britain – you can’t rebuild Britain if it doesn’t exist, so winning the referendum is absolutely core to Labour.

Scottish aAbour has been through the storms says Curran – in some ways deserved. But the party is changing its relationship with people. Narrow nationalism can never be the answer.

1635: Adonis says he is struck by similarities between now and the 70s. the closest historical comparison to Cameron’s government is the Heath government, which was obviously a one term government at a time of economic shocks.

There could be a massive defection from UKIP to the Tories, making the Tories even more extreme on Europe. Labour’s response? Being very credible. Talking about jobs, growth, housing – strong and credible in all those areas. We lacked that in 2010. We need over coming months to develop this.

1630: Now it’s Question Time, with Mark Ferguson of Labour List ‘fame’ playing the Dimbleby role.

Questions: Scottish Independence is key question for Labour’s next majority – what are we going to do?

How can we take advantage of UKIP doing damaage to the Tories?

5 million votes lost were mostly working class people and people who stopped voting all together. What can Labour do?

Kellner says that he thought Labour had completely blown it when SNP won power in Scotland but now thinks it was a cunning plan to shoot Alex Salmond’s fox – independence will be lost.

Kellner thinks UKIP will do very well in European elections (Labour might come second to them) and this momentum might take votes of the Tories in the next general election. There could be a reversal of the old ‘progressive dilemma’ that the left vote is split. This time it could be the right.

1614: Chair Rowenna Davis thanks the panel and that’s it. A very short break now and the 2 final sessions. It may be a sunny Saturday, but we are cramming them in:

Fabian Question Time: Routes to a majority in Britain and Europe

Speakers: Lord Adonis (Labour Lords spokesperson on Trade and Industry), Margaret Curran MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland), Peter Kellner (President, YouGov), Steve Hart (Political Director, Unite)

Chair: Mark Ferguson (Editor, LabourList)

5pm – Afternoon Keynote – Harriet Harman MP

1608: Ernst Stetter responds to question about the European elections and says that we need to have a sense that the left is running a European wide campaign. We have to learn from the European project of peace and inspiration – and that means solidarity with people across Europe. That means Greece not leaving the euro.

Stella Creasy says that she has argued on a Fabian platform before that LAbour should take a gap year from its structures and join other campaigns, but its a way of working together and getting collective purpose with communities – not about internal structures but causes and the things we stand for.

1556: Caroline Badley and Kathryn Perera both agree that change won’t be easy and it won’t happen by itself. The Labour Party must support change from the above, and Kathryn is hopeful that the Labour Party will be able to.

1547: Ernst Stetter reflects on campaigning and on how Europe could help Labour. Believes that progressives throughout Europe should talk on how they can work against conservatives, and considers the changing focus that emerged after the victory of the French Left.

1538: Caroline Badley talks about the success of Gisela Stuart’s victory in 2010. We do need to change she says – not been any massive switch from the Tories to Labour, there is no massive love for Labour. Many people are saying a curse on all politicians. Also Badley thinks that we politicians should spend at least one hour a week talking to voters and discussing their problems.

Labour’s vote is soft so the party needs to change. But it’s also the right thing to do because the party structures don’t reflect the country.

Labour needs to get more people out to help campaigning.  so have to let organisers organise, because they have skills to help volunteers and bring more people in.

We also need to give the people on the ground the tools they need to do the job.

But it’s not just about organisation – if Labour isn’t saying anything relevant then people will see right through it.

1531: Polly Billington says she is a spin doctor turned campaigner and its an illustrative journey about how politics has changed. She saw the dying capacity of spin to affect things towards the end of the last government. The country has changed beneath our feet.

Campaigning shouldn’t start on the doorstep. It’s not the place for fruitful conversations. Where you have conversations changes the nature of conversations. But can’t move away from it until we get a different party – a more’bottom up’ party.

1526: I’m sorry – technical issues meant I missed Stella Creasy’s opening contribution. But i believe it had something to do with spicy pasta sauce.

Kathyrn Perrera says we need to think about people’s experience and what people expect of politics. Why would people be interested in Labour in the first place? This is the right starting point rather than why don’t they take more notice. We need to think about conversation rather than broadcast.

1522: The next session has just started:

Next Majorities: Change to win?

Speakers: Stella Creasy MP, Kathryn Perera (Movement for Change), Polly Billington (Labour PPC for Thurrock), Caroline Badley (Campaign Manager in Birmingham), Ernst Stetter (Secretary General, FEPS)

1459:  Miliband is asked a question about how to increase esteem of manual work and further education

He responds firstly that the idea that we solve education by going back to Olevel? Come of it. It separated people at 14.

There is a big problem about the status of voational qualifications and how we value people who work in manufacturing. Need comprehensive one system covering academic and vocational system. He says his brother wrote a pamphlet 20 years ago calling for a baccalaureate system and he was right.

He responds to a question about immigration by saying he is the son of immigrant and values the contribution of immigration. But when people come here it must not be to the economic disadvantage of people already here. This means enforcing the minimum wage better. Only 7 people have been prosecuted for abusing minumum wage.

This is also about stopping new migrant being exploited.

Miliband says in answer to a question about what Labour can do out in the country to cahnge things, that the living wage is an example of what Labour can do campaigning on the ground. Irts part of changing the culture of the Labour party. Voter contact is importna but have to build the capacity of the local party – head office has to change and Tom Watson is working on this: building capacity is as important as knocking on doors.

What should Labour do for women? We shouldn’t rest until 50% MPs are women and 50% of cabinet says Miliband. Unless popliotics reflects country seeks to serve it’s a hopeless situation. There should be a gender audit, work on child care, parental leave is not solved. It’s a huge huge agenda.

How do we win the nex t election Miliband is asked? It’s the biggest question. The Tories are not just failing cos of omnisshambles, but their plan isn’t working and unfair. Rebuilding Britain is the key – how you change society so not just a few people are doing well, rebuild society and rebuild faith in our politics. Rebuild trust not just in Labour but politics as a whole. Who do you stand up for – me or the bankers? This is about making promises you can keep not those you can’t. Representation – Labour lacks working class representation.

Miliband explains that the policy review has 18 months to go up to conference 2013. Policy needs to be symbolic of this vision.

Miliband thanks Fabians for their work  – and with that he departs.

1452: Miliband answers a question about higher education and skills, saying 1 in 5 graduates aren’t doing a graduate job. It’s good 48% are going to higher education, main problem is how government is running the eocnomy.

Miliband thinks there hasn’t been a proper reckoning on credit agencies.

What is Labour’s future role in the European Union? Miliband says Europe is changing. we’renot going to be in the eurozone but can be active and important members of the EU.  Cameron made a bad mistake in walking away from the table in December. He’s made himself irrelevant. The priority now isn’t to have  referendum on the EU, it’s to sort out jobs and growth. Need an EU based on growth not austerity.

1446: Rowenna Davis thanks Ed for ‘getting it’ on bankers. In principle should banks lose their licence when they behave like this and in practice should Barclays?

Miliband responds thatBarclays losing licence isn’t the solution. Too many savers invested. What’s important is that Barclays works better and leadership of the bank takes responsibility.

Another asks about student aspiration and what Labour is going to do. So much talent is going to waste says Milibande, and it’s avoidable. Labour had the future jobs fund – a bank bonus tax should pay to create jobs.

In Miliband’s vision of banking reform, what about pay day lenders? If banks were doing their joib they wouldn’t have to go to pay day lenders. Miliband agrees pay day lenders need to stop bad practice and praises Stella Creasy’s campaign. It’s an outrage that the poorest pay most for credit.

1439: Mary Riddell asks about criminal justice – this country has been very ba d at prosectuing white collar crime. To punish people involved in banking scandal ,does Miliband have any suggestions what we should do? And if more at the top need to go to prison, given prisons are over crowded then should we let out more from the bottom?

Miliband responds that is because people have been thinking they are above the law. The inquiry needs to tighten this up and change the culture.

Miliband also says he thinks there is should be moreof a role for community punishment. It’sgot to be something the public can believe in but restorative justice is important. Victims don’t feel at the heart of the system. This is an area we need to do more.

1431: Miliband is reponding to audience questions now. He says that in the end the next Labour government is not going to be able to rely on the banks to solve investment. There are limits to what private sector can do, although they’ve got to do a lot better.

He’s asked about whether the golden age where banking was repected can be returned to. They had branch managers and more lcoal relationships then.

Miliband mentions Handels bank in Swedish, who recently opened a branch in Ilkley. They didn’t invest in subprime mortgages because they asked more questions than others who went along with the scheme, and they weren’t affected by the financial crash. This is a model not of a golden age but how banks can act responsibly today.

1427: We still need to reform bankers bonuses. the inquiry should finally put this issu to bed; the government won’t. Where have the instituional investers been during the scandal? They should be speaking out not going to ground.

The government is refusing to do all of these things.

The deeper lessons are about why this important sector feel into disrepute. About organisations that felt they were too powerful, with a take what you can culture, leading people to live separate lives, and a public who believe politics t can’t speak for them. There is irresponsiblity at the top of society.

The British people stand for the right values – reward linked to effort. the government don’t get it but the people deserve better.

1425: The British people will not tolerate anything less than a full open and independent inquiry. They don’t want sticking plaster solutions and that’s all the government is offering.

We need a new code of conduct for bankers. If bankers break the code they should never work in banking again.

Why has no one gone to jail for what happened in the financial crisis. There should be adequate legal provision for the top of society as well as the bottom.

We also need to implement the Vickers recommendations.

1416: Miliband draw the picture on bank perceptions today. Everyone should be able to trust these big banks, but unfortunately banks are no longer trusted. Its time to change the root of these problems.

1415: Miliband draws a link on the case of what is wrong in the banking system and Barclays and the phone hacking scandal. This as then is not a case of one rogue reporter.

1410: Andrew Harrop now welcomes Ed Miliband to speak.

Miliband begins by saying that the moment demands he talks about the events in the banking industry of the last few days.

We know we’ve had an economy that doesn’t work for working people. thaqt just works for elites and recent events have brought home the scale of that.

Matter to the ordinary person tryingt o make ends meet, who’ve seen people in the banking industry lying and cheating and celebrating with a bottle of bolinger.

The banking insustry is not serving small busineses, its only serving itself.

But we still don’t know who ther perpatrors are. No one seems to take responsiblty in th banking industry. the leaders of Barclays have essentially gone to ground. where are they. Another scandal and another stain on a once great industry.

If we don’t use this moment to act it will keep going.

1355: John Denham is now beginning to talk about the new Fabian book ‘The Shape of things to Come’ he has edited, which was published on Wednesday. The book features contributions from Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna, Will Hutton and many others, exploring Labour’s new thinking. The authors develop some of ther ideas Ed Miliband has set out since becoming leader – squeezed middle, responsible capitalism, promise of Britain etc – and consider their implications for policy, and where Ed’d ideas might lead.

The book comes from the idea that what political parties are able to do is in part shaped by the times they exist in but also shaped by those that lead them.

Denham says there are 3 main themes that emerge from the essays.

First that changing the economy is key to delivering fairness in a tight fiscal situation. Much of what drove Labour spending was market failure. At the heart of the book is that we can build a different economy and that is how to control public sp[ending.

Second, no one expects that the public spending tap will be turned on any time soon. There won’t be an era of plenty after the era of austerity. So we need to develop efficiency in services without spending more money.

Third, drawing on older Labour traditions there is a feeling that both the market and state were too bossy and so we need to go with the grain of human nature.

1300; Some great questions from the audience causes the Panal Debate to overrun. All now looking forward to John Denham and Ed Miliband after the break.

1255; We’re about to break for lunch here at #fabsummer. Join us again at 2pm for Ed Miliband LIVE

1245: Welfare, immigration and other tough issues for Labour need to be talked about upstream, through shaping a conversation about a “covenant” with the people of Britain says Jon Cruddas.

1241: James Morris asks why we’re talking about moving to the left or the right – it is simply not something that people think about. Witness the failure of the Sun to label Ed Miliband as “Red Ed”.

When we’re talking about the past, we must look about what people were concerned about from Labour’s record but always talk about it in the context of how we will change the future.

1238: Kirsty McNeill tackles the question over how much Labour needs to apologise – we need to be very clear on what we are apologising for. Shouldn’t run down Labour’s record in government in its totality but we need to identify what aspects need to be looked at.

1233: Labour supporter originally from Bradford but not a party member asks if people on the panel underestimate how disillusioned people are with Labour after government – how does Labour overcome this? Prompts an outbreak of applause from the audience

1221: In 1945, 1964 and 1997 Labour won because they won the national conversation; talking about rebuilding Britain is the grid we’ll be building our policies round says Jon Cruddas.

In terms of language Labour needs to own the key concepts and terms that surround the left. References George W. Bush’s “The Duty of Hope” speech (linked to here in what will almost certainly be a one-off Fabian Society GWB link as a speech that focuses on vital  terms.

(Also says he sees the Labour tradition as a tension between the Fabian and ILP traditions and (bravely!) confesses to not being a Fabian. Jon, if you’re reading this it’s not too late!

1220: Anthony Painter reports on an overheard conversation on a bus! A group of young people who didn’t like the Tories but weren’t sure what Labour stood for. People have stopped believing the games that politicians play – not enough to just throw a policy and see if it sticks but having a genuine and credible vision for change, nay, national reconstruction. But we need a humble politics – we need to marry meaning and message.

1210: How do you win the message fight, says James Morris. You first of all have to show yourself to be competent (something the government has learned to their cost in recent months!) but competence alone isn’t enough. Talking about the future and tackling the huge institutional and structural problems that people perceive exist is necessary for the Labour Party to win people back. Labour can’t just bank on the Tories being as incompetent as they currently are forever…

1207: Kirsty McNeill says Labour must be the party that bring people across the whole of Britain. But there are three key barriers: the language we use tro communicate with people,we denigrate the doorstep (interesting given Iain McNicol’s earlier comments) and do not have candidates that look like Britain. One of the single biggest barriers to joinng the Labour party is the Labour Party itself – too much like fans of a cliquey indie band! And channels Alex Salmond – we can either be a party of the elected or the elect.

1202: Does Labour have the story that resonates with the public? Not yet says Mary Riddell. Progress is being made we know very little about what Labour will say on crime for example. Labour can’t wait for coalition to fail it needs to develop it’s own policy story.

12 noon: Here we have: Cut Through: How do we shape messages that resonate with the public? 

With Jon Cruddas MP (Chair of Labour’s Policy Review), Kirsty McNeill (ex Downing St and Make Poverty History), Anthony Painter (author, ‘Left Without a Future?’), James Morris (Vice President, Greenberg Quinland Rosner Research)

1150: McNicol says he understands why Labour developed a key seats strategy in 1997 but we need to build the party all the way across the country and build a movement across the whole country, and that’s the legacy he wants leave.

And with that McNicol and Roberts depart, leaving the stage for Telegraph columnist and Fabian Review star interviewer Mary Riddell to chair the first panel debate.

1145: Key to this is less control at the centre and sharing local best practice says McNicol.

An audience member thanks McNicol for helping change the culture in Labour to more active campainging on local issues. The party has changed for the better.

Another says the word Labour means work but Labour’s economic policy is focused on financial goals rather than employment.

Mark Ferguson from Labour List says Labour is too cliquey and opening up is good. But what’s the point of 100 selections if the same special advisers get selected?

McNicol responds that under him selections have been the decisions of members and members only.  There is an underlying point though that to get selected there are ways and skills that help – one of the things the party has done is funded a Future candidates programme to develop skills for people who don’t have the skills that special advisers already have.

1145: An audience member asks should activists go out with a notepad to get concerns of people rather than their voting intention? McNicol responds that one of Saul Alinsky’s trainees, the godfather of community organising, is Arnie Graf who is working with Labour activists to shift away from this transactional approach to politics. We saw this is Bradford – need to be more engaged in communities. Making small differences like fixing street lights can be crucial – but the structures we have now in the party don’t allow that. It’s much more focused on asking ‘who did you vote’.

1145: Marcus Roberts asks what Iain want his legacy to be. He responds that Labour needs to win elections but also more present in local neighbourhoods.

This requires a big shift says Roberts, for Labour activists, who have in the past judged success by numbers of  leaflets deliverered. It is radical respond McNicol but is crucial to reengaging people in politics.

1140: Labour offers an optimistic message in contrast to the Tories pessimism that our best days are behind us. Labour has a steep climb ahead so must do what we always do when the road ahead it tricky: come together and reach the safer ground.

And with that hopeful thought, McNicol closes for a Q and A.

1135: Labour is more than a network of unpaid leaflet distributors, and that is the shift I want to see says McNicol. It must be a force in local communites.

We’re selecting more candidates, different who look like the communities they seek to represent.

More listening, more campaigning, more conversations and more relationships.

McNicol says Labour must earn the votes of millions of people, to listen to their changing concerns and understand life a the sharp end. What a contrast this is to the tories.

1130: Labour’s response under Ed Miliband has been strong: from phone hacking to the most recent banking scandal. But there have been challenges too: we lost to Boris in London and Galloway in Bradford.

The southern discomfort that the Fabians pointed out in the early 90s is still with us.

Organisation is key, says McNicol. ‘I’m a modersinisng General Secretary. I don’t want to leave the Labour Party in the same state I found it. We need to change.’

In Bradford we ran an analog campaign in a digital age. Straight out of 1990s playbook, it may have woprked then but not now. We were seen as establishment, not insurgents he says.

1125: McNicol says there is chaos at the heart of the government, but also betrayl as they seek to shrink the state and make cuts not because they have to, but because they want to.

It’s also economic madness. Crime is rising, NHS waiting lists going up but the government cutting taxes for millionaires.

1120: Iain McNicol says the Fabians and Labour have worked hand in glove since the fomation of the party and the Fabians still have much to say about the future – like the recently released collection of essays ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, looking at how the state and market can be reformed under and ed Milband government.

1115: Marcus Roberts speaks about the Fabian’s next majority project, which looks at policy, meesage and organisation, and what Labour’s best route to an election victory will be.

Policy needs to be less elite driven, more in touch with the grassroots.

This is Iain McNicol’s challenge, who as General Secretary of teh Labour Party is already moving the party away from command and control.

11AM: The Conference is about to start but it’s already a success: it’s totally sold out.

Marcus Roberts, Deputy General Secretary, about to speak to introduce the day.  But first Andrew Harrop calls for a moment of silence in honour of Peter Archer, the former President of the Fabian Society who sadly died recently.

10:50 Hello, I’m Ed Wallis and I’ll be starting live blogging proceedings today from an incredibly small laptop, which I mention in advance of any typos or irreverent spelling.

Want to know what to expect from the Fabian Summer Conference? Have a gander at the schedule.


We’ll be live blogging our Labour’s Next Majority Summer Conference from 11am on Saturday 30th June.

So if you weren’t able to get a ticket for our sold out conference, you can follow the best of the day’s contributions here on the Fabian Review online.

You can also follow us on Twitter at @thefabians and you can join the debate on the hashtag #FabSummer.

The Fabian Society will be hosting a major one-day conference looking at how Labour can win a majority at the next election.

Our Summer Conference will launch the Fabian Society’s “Labour’s Next Majority” project which will look at the messages Labour needs to win, the policies that resonate with the electorate and the organisational changes that will turn Labour into a campaigning organisation without peer in British politics.

This multi-year project will be the cornerstone of Labour’s electoral strategy for the next general election.a

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