I am about to set off for Liverpool, for Labour’s 2023 annual conference, probably the last before the general election.

I am concerned about three policy issues. Rachel Reeves’s new golden rules are an unnecessary constraint and harsher than even George Osborne ‘s so-called fiscal prudence guidelines, which even he decided to break when he saw the effect on aggregate demand. The language and commitment to these rules, which require a government current account surplus every year of the parliament has significant problems. Firstly, it’s unnecessarily harsh, and the shadow treasury team led by Reeves fail to offer an adequate definition of investment i.e. what expenditure will not be constrained by the rules but funded by borrowing or QE. These rules will also continue the austerity applied to public sector pay and thus in a second fashion reduce aggregate demand.

The challenge to the leadership on relations with the European Union is also weak and unlikely to be debated.

The whole approach of developing a policy programme that banks the 2019 vote and appealing to augment it by winning back what we might summarise as “blue labour” voters is risky. Even if it works there may not be enough of them, and Labour’s ‘core’ vote and those attracted by the social democtatic content of its 2017 manifesto may well decide that its not worth supporting. The loyalty of the new youth vote is particularly vulnerable. Assuming people have nowhere else to go is a proven fallacy, amply demonstrated by the 2019 general election. Those people that support this strategy need to ask themselves, what makes them think the coalition they are seeking to build will be bigger than that in 2015. This strategy is one of the reasons why the leadership think they are being clever by triangulating with the Tories on a number of issues.I worry that they are wrong and I am not alone.

 Most importantly to me is that of UK EU relations; I wish to rejoin but economically we need to join the single market to improve foreign investment, exports, and immigration, to allow EU citizens to come here to work. We need the customs union to reduce business paperwork. Brexit remains fixed in Labour’s strategists minds as a totemic “red wall” issue; their position is as likely to lose votes even if only to abstention as win them.

Labour Conference 23, a preview
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