Insights from the Labour Conference 2015
Last week, the sun shone brightly on the Labour Party conference and there was much anticipation for Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as leader.
With Labour’s Shadow Cabinet only two weeks old, strong policy platforms were not easily forthcoming. However, what was encouraging to see was the emphasis placed by Lucy Powell, new Shadow Education Secretary, on bridging the gap between disadvantaged young people and their peers, and on better provision and secure funding for 16-19 education. With an ‘arms wide open’ approach to their appearances at Fringe events, it seemed that both Lucy and her Shadow Minister for Skills, Gordon Marsden, were concentrating on putting time into evidence-based policy formulation rather than using the conference to simply push their ideological course.
Neither of them were shy in providing some insight into their top-line thoughts. Lucy Powell was openly opposed to the opening of more grammar schools and called for greater evidence supporting the need for more academies; whilst Gordon Marsden emphasised that FE provision should not become a ‘qualifications conveyor belt’ for 16-19 year olds, but instead should be a foundation for future progression and sustained employment.
While Corbyn gets to grips with a somewhat conflicting Shadow Cabinet, his personal approach to education, outside of dropping tuition fees, is not yet clear. However, in Powell, he has an Education Secretary eager to stir debate and formulate policy as a result; all the while tackling the Government on its funding plans for FE and early year’s provision until she finds a stronger alternative approach.
It is too early to tell if the opposition can unite on a firm set of collective policies, but in the meantime, there seems to be a thirst for discussion and a willingness to listen to all – from both within and outside of the party.
Is there a new kind of politics on the horizon? We shall wait and see…