September is just around the corner which, in terms of UK politics, means that conference season will shortly be upon us. Parliament returns on 4th September after the Summer recess, but goes into recess again for conferences from 13th September to 9th October. It’s not exaggerating to say that this Autumn will be one of the most important Parliamentary sessions in modern UK history, as HMG attempts to agree a deal with the EU and (either in Autumn or next Spring ) places whatever that deal is before Parliament.
But before then we have the party conferences.
This year the Trades Union Congress, not a political party, but a political player, meets from 9th to the 12th September in Manchester and is celebrating its 150th anniversary, in a world where union membership is dropping like a stone and global corporations defy nation states. It is, quite reasonably, fearful for workers’ rights and safety at work legislation if the UK leaves the EU and does carry weight with the Labour Party hierarchy. Brexit will feature, but so will many social issues.
UKIP (with no MPs) meets from 21st to 22nd. The only elected representatives of the party which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU sit in the European Parliament, though they will wrap themselves in the Union flag and bang on about policies which translate as ‘going back to the 1950s’. This is the Alice Through the Looking Glass world of British politics in the 21st century.
The Liberal Democrats meet in Brighton on 15th until 18th September. Reduced to a rump during the 2015 elections because of broken electoral promises and barely reviving in 2017 (the party now has 12 MPs) the Lib Dems are pro-EU in policy and campaign to remain in the EU but, until a General Election, have little power to speak of. Their best hope is an early Election and a hung result, thus making them the power-brokers. The Greens, the only other avowed Europhile party. choose Bristol from 5th – 7th October. They have only one MP.
The Labour party assembles in Liverpool from Sunday 23rd to Wednesday 26th September. It is riven, with life-long Labour supporters driven to despair by internal disputes, inflexibility and bullying (and this despite the overall ascendancy of the left of the party). Opposing the most shambolic and unpopular government in decades, Labour has spent the Summer arguing about anti-semitism. Opinion polls show it neck and neck with the Tories. There is a grassroots, mainly youth-based movement for the party to oppose Brexit, but it will be interesting to see how this plays at conference, if it is allowed to play at all.
I have recently enjoyed watching the HBO television drama, Succession, about the vicious family feuding and moral frailty within a Murdoch type media dynasty with echoes of King Lear. None of the protagonists have any likeable features, they are all totally self-interested and want only power and money. Great preparation, then for the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham from 30th September until 3rd October and the latest round, begun by Cameron and Osbourne in 2016, of the ‘who rules the Tory party’ saga. Social media twitters with plots about entryism, former UKIP supporters joining the Tories so as to be able to dislodge Theresa May and replace her with Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg. Unfortunately whoever rules the Tory party also rules the country.
I look forward to the announcement from the Crown Prosecution Service – in the middle of the Tory conference – that it is prosecuting those individuals in the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns already referred to the police. Thereby scuppering the chances of Johnson, Gove et al (one can but hope).