Is SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s plan for more party conference debates (your report, 29 August) simply a cosmetic exercise?
Sunday morning sessions at any conference do not, for a variety of reasons, tend to be the most lively, with delegates’ minds either on departure or reflection on the previous days’ speeches. They may be enlivened by policy debates but this begs an important question. Shouldn’t the ethos of the entire conference be about policy? Consigning these matters to the “Sunday morning debating session” is in itself a form of control freakery.
At best, it is an attempt to balance the need for an effective event in public relations terms with the understandable desire to make members feel their views are actually valued. Either way, it seems a patronising gesture.
Labour paid a heavy price in the early 1980s for allowing its conferences to be seen as divisive and shambolic. The moves towards softer colouring of backgrounds and emphasis on the personality of the leaders did reflect a public desire for more harmony. Indeed, it could be argued that stage management was necessary if only to convince a sceptical electorate that the party was at least capable of running its own affairs properly. This was a necessary condition for persuading voters that it was capable of running the country.
The popularity of leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn (both inside and outside the party) reflects a change in the public mood away from the pre-programmed politician and towards the more genuine candidate. That ought to be reflected in the way entire party conferences are run and not simply relegated to a token compartment on a Sunday morning.