By Peter Hoskin
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Labour’s five-day jamboree ends today. There will be a closing speech by Harriet Harman at lunchtime, as well as some prior talks, before everyone leaves Manchester to the Greatest Football Team in the World, and decamps to their constituencies and to London. So apologies if this quick list of the things we’ve learnt from the Labour conference is a little premature, but I can’t see things changing much this morning. Here goes:
1) In terms of presentation, Labour are turning blue. In my ConHome column on Tuesday, I wrote that the most important aspect of the Labour conference was how “Ed Miliband’s party is straying onto territory usually occupied by the Conservatives” — and that was even before the “One Nation” speech that Mr Miliband delivered later that day. From the emphasis on property ownership to Yvette Cooper’s claim that Labour are “now the party of policing”, from the rediscovered patriotism to the blue backdrop of the main stage, there appeared to be a concerted effort to broaden the party’s appeal rightwards. “Red Ed no more,” was the message. “Vote for Blue Ed.”
2) In terms of substance, Labour are staying red. But look beyond the performances and the stage lighting, and the (few) policies that Labour are espousing are still dripping red. There’s the example I used in my column: the party’s drive towards property ownership is based around more and more spending, and implicitly critiques Thatcher-era policies such as the Right to Buy. But we saw it too in those moments when Labour’s speakers tore up the Tory copybook, such as when Andy Burnham railed against “privatisation” in the NHS. Some of this is Labour staying on their comfort ground but, to my eyes, some of it is more than that. They’re trying to create a new generation of Labour voters by wrapping left-wing policies in centrist, or even right-wing, language.