Party conference season is under way and it’s been a fairly smooth start for Labour.
The conference kicked off with God Save the King. It was a brave move, the first anyone can remember it happening, and it could have backfired spectacularly, but conference sang along and there was no obvious opposition.
The whole point of Labour’s gathering in Liverpool is to show voters that after 12 years in opposition, looking nowhere near ready to return to government, they are now, as the opinion polls suggest, being taken seriously by voters as a government in waiting.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves sounded every bit a potential chancellor, setting out Labour’s alternatives to the Conservative government’s tax cutting, trickle down mini-budget. It is now up to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to show that he is ready to be Prime Minister.
His speechwriters will need to make sure, not only that he doesn’t scare the horses, but also that he doesn’t bore the horses, while still looking like the safe pair of hands the country needs to guide it through the cost-of-living crisis.
‘Leadership campaign over’
The Conservative conference is next and for new Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, this is their chance to explain the risks outlined in their not-so mini-budget.
They have to explain it to their own party, the country and the financial markets. The last of these has already shown its lack of confidence in the plan, with the pound plummeting against the dollar and the euro.
Truss became a real crowd pleaser with Tory party members across the UK during the leadership contest. She will undoubtedly get a great response in the conference hall just for turning up, but the leadership campaign is over, and she must get her message beyond the party faithful.
The SNP will gather in Aberdeen for their first in-person conference since 2019. It comes a year out from the First Minister’s promised IndyRef2, but her conference speech is due the day before the Supreme Court considers whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold that vote.
It might be a bit of a strange conference, landing between big Holyrood decisions reacting to the UK Government’s tax-cutting plans and the committee report on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and that Supreme Court case.
Often party conferences are where leaders prepare to do battle with their biggest opponents – those within their own parties. Labour seems to be putting on a more united front than the comrades have managed for many years.
Liz Truss and Nicola Sturgeon will be hoping for similar shows of unity at their party gatherings.