The ruling brought gasps and pandemonium – but the party quickly realised it was win-win
One of the more remarkable features of the Labour party conference was just how few MPs made the effort to come to Brighton. A couple of outliers parachuted themselves in for the day, but the large majority avoided the conference entirely. Which meant that many of the fringe meetings consisted of the same few shadow cabinet ministers and union leaders making much the same speech over and over again. Regardless of what the topic under discussion was meant to be. It did all get quite dull at times. But it was hard to blame so many MPs for staying away, because for most of the first three days the atmosphere was fairly toxic as delegates appeared more interested in blood feuds than getting ready for an election. Having spent the first two days unsuccessfully trying to remove the deputy leader, Tom Watson – one of the few Labour moderates who still bothers to attend conference – the Corbyn wing of the party then went on to slug it out among themselves. The battleground was between those who believed the whole point of joining Corbyn’s Labour party was that its members now got to decide policy and those who reckoned that the leader and those close to him were entitled to do exactly as they wished. Amid rumours of a stitch-up that involved Corbyn’s team packing the hall and the refusal of the chair to allow a formal card vote, the latter prevailed and Labour’s position on Brexit stayed one of creative ambiguity rather than a clear backing of remain. Lord make me a democrat, but not yet.
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