Both spoke at the Labour Party's Conference on Tuesday afternoonby Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite / September 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Labour’s plan for business
Today’s Labour Party conference saw speeches from Deputy Leader Tom Watson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan: two Labour heavyweights who have voiced criticism of Corbyn and who, importantly, have their own mandates. Unsurprisingly, Watson praised Khan as a “champion.” It is significant that both, while accepting the result of the leadership election and offering support to Jeremy Corbyn, made some implicit criticisms of Corbyn and his backers. And in both their speeches there are elements that point to the shape of the Labour Party platform they would like to see.
Before Khan had even delivered his speech, journalists had already counted the number of times he was going to use the word “power” (38 in the final version). The principal message of his speech was a simple one: Labour must aim to take power at the national level as soon as possible; it is only in power that Labour can make the changes needed to help those who “need it most.” This was an argument, ultimately, for compromise on ideological principle in favour of pragmatic achievement. And in heaping praise on the party’s MPs, MSPs, AMs, and councillors as the people who “walk the streets and knock on doors come rain or shine, who deliver Labour leaflets and who listen to the voters,” Khan insisted that the party’s MPs, in particular, be recognised as some of Labour’s most dedicated activists, and given credit for their achievements. As Corbyn has appeared in recent days to give his supporters in Momentum leeway to consider campaigning for the deselection of some MPs, this is an important message. By slipping in “listen to the voters,” Khan hinted that the party needs to take very seriously opinion polls and evidence from canvassers who often report that Corbyn is not popular among many sometime Labour voters.
Watson, striking a parallel note, critiqued the tendency of some Corbyn supporters to denigrate the achievements of the New Labour years. Watson emphasised that the party’s history—including its recent history—must not be criticized as a catalogue of failures, calling the labour movement “the greatest movement for social change…