Competitive streak

Last month over a hundred women and men turned up bright and early one Saturday morning to Camden town hall for Progress’ first ever women’s conference, Winning With Women, part of our Campaign for a Labour Majority. Deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman addressed the morning plenary, while in the afternoon Zoe Tyndall of pollster BritainThinks led a discussion on whether there is still a ‘women’s vote’. This was followed by breakout sessions on the nuts and bolts of politics – understanding the selections process, getting your message across, and running a successful campaign, with MPs, prospective parliamentary candidates, council leaders and many more speaking and participating. Morning plenary panellists were asked their views on the trade union ASLEF’s proposed motion to Labour party conference to ‘ban Progress’. Harman called the move ‘an absolute red herring and wrong’ while NEC member Johanna Baxter declared she would be voting against it. The motion itself was withdrawn in the week that followed and will not be going to conference.

Further events as part of the Campaign for a Labour Majority are slated for this autumn and winter with the Labour Party Irish Society, the Jewish Labour Movement and Chinese for Labour. The campaign was launched earlier this year with special polling analysis by YouGov’s Peter Kellner, which warned that on the basis of past elections Tory MPs elected in 2010 may experience a ‘first-time incumbent bonus’ which helps them cling on in the face of a swing to Labour. The campaign seeks to help Labour get the politics, policies and organisation right to win an outright majority in 2015.

As the travelling circus that is party conference season got under way, Demos launched its own entertainment to be enjoyed alongside the usual acts inside the political big top. In Fantasy Politics ‘you pick your team of stars, sit back and watch them gain or lose points based on their good or poor performance. The only difference? Your teamsheet will be full of politicians, not footballers, and the venue will be the three weeks of political party conference season.’ Teams entered include The Farage Mirage and Keith Vaz and the Kardashians (brave in that many participating in Fantasy Politics will be more familiar with the pronouncements of the chair of the home affairs select committee than with who the Kardashians are and what they might have been up to of late). MPs are divided into Big Hitters, Position Players, and Dark Horses, while special awards include ‘September Issue’ for the best-dressed MP, ‘Talk of the Town’, for being subject of the ‘best anecdote, gossip or diary piece’, and ‘Own Goal’ – which is self-explanatory.

This is not the only competition doing the rounds as the Westminster Village decamps outside London: the Social Market Foundation is running The M Word competition – M standing in this case for markets and the role they play in policy, and also for manifesto, about which the tank wants to prompt discussion. SMF asks participants to send in their best manifesto ideas by the Wednesday of each conference – but on Twitter only, meaning they have just 140 characters in which to convey their game-changing proposal. There is a mysteriously unnamed ‘exclusive prize’ for the winner and the promise that the victorious idea will be written up on the SMF’s ‘marketsquare’ blog, perhaps even by recently arrived director Emran Mian who joins tankworld from government, where he latterly was director of strategy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Institute of Economic Affairs, meanwhile, is running its own competition (first prize – €100,000) on ‘preparing for Brexit’. The tank notes that ‘an “Out” vote in a British referendum would be a major historic geopolitical and economic event’ and that consequently a large amount of work would need to be done to rebuild the architecture the UK exists in. Eurosceptics’ belief that the rest of the world awaits – and that it will suffice for us if only we throw off the shackles – creeps through in the IEA’s call for submissions on ‘Negotiation of the UK’s post-EU-exit position to settle the UK’s relationships with the remaining EU and other interested parties and, crucially, with the rest of the world.’  Whether the rest of the world will be so interested in what we offer unless we can throw the rest of the continent in to the bargain remains, riskily, to be seen.

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Photo: Robert Bruce Murray III

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