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19/10/2015

R3 at the Labour Party Conference 2015

A day by the seaside normally conjures up images of sun loungers, sand and ice cream. For R3, at the end of September, a day by the seaside involved fringe meetings, policy discussions and networking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

With an entirely new leadership in place and a substantially different frontbench team, it was important for R3 to establish the Labour Party’s likely attitude to business in the coming years and raise specific insolvency issues with relevant MPs where possible.

The ‘mood’ at the conference was generally upbeat, which may have been a result of, in part, the very warm, sunny weather, but no doubt was mainly as a result of the huge mandate the party’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn had just won from his membership.  Despite the upbeat ‘mood’ and ’buzz’ around conference and hotels there were far fewer commercial exhibitors than at previous conferences; perhaps telling of  the uphill battle Corbyn and his team have with business over the months and years ahead.

This positive mood jarred slightly against the many disagreements on policy within the party which were clear to see – some of these ‘disagreements’ were more politely delivered whilst other MPs were less guarded with their comments.

Despite the divisions between the party’s leadership and backbenchers (and indeed within the leadership team itself), support for remaining in the EU, reformed or otherwise, was very clear and an issue on which prominent Labour MPs were largely in agreement with large business lobby groups. Interestingly, the feeling from conference delegates was more qualified and certainly did not amount to unequivocal support for remaining in the EU.

The fringes were generally well attended (many standing room only) but this may be a consequence of the fact that there were less fringe events compared to previous conferences.

One fringe in particular which drew a large crowd was ‘Rethinking Labour’s Relationship with Business’. The fringe was attended by Blairite MPs Caroline Flint and Keir Starmer, as well as John Cridland (Director of the CBI). New Shadow BIS Secretary Angela Eagle attended for part of the meeting and very honestly stated that she has a ‘lot of reading up to do’ on many of the issues raised. The tone throughout was notably positive and much was made about having a more constructive, though still frank, relationship with business.

With the new Labour team having been in place for only a few weeks before the conference, firm policy positions had not been set out, and a large part of the party was clearly enjoying the ‘honeymoon’ period following the new leader’s election. Once this period is over, a strong balancing act will clearly be required from the new leader in order to ensure that all parts of his party feel adequately represented.

Regardless of the internal party debates, the business community will expect to see a coherent and positive policy offer. Anything less could lead Labour in a very difficult position when it comes to the next General Election.

 

Notes to editors:

  • R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.

  • R3 comments on a wide variety of personal and corporate insolvency issues. Contact the press office, or see www.r3.org.uk for further information.

  • R3 promotes best practice for professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses; all R3 members are regulated by recognised professional bodies
     
  • R3 stands for 'Rescue, Recovery, and Renewal' and is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.