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Labour Party fringe meetings kick start conference in Manchester

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Originally published on Digital Journal on 30/09/2012
The UK Labour Party started its annual five-day conference on Sunday, under the theme ‘rebuilding Britain’, in the Northwest city of Manchester.

As well as party leader Ed Miliband addressing a Q&A session hosted by the Manchester Evening News, there were additional fringe meetings hosted by the Fabian Society, a political think tank.


Fringe meetings take place at a political party conference that are not part of the main proceedings and are usually small and address a particular special interest.


The main themes and questions throughout the meetings explored the party’s existing and future policies and how to re-connect with the British people.


One event, ‘Winning new voters – Does Labour lurch to the left or right?’, hosted by Sunny Hundal (editor of the Liberal Conspiracy) and Rowenna Davis (Labour Councillor and journalist) had a panel who were each asked to give a short response to a question posed to them.


Rachel Reeves, shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that “this government is making tax cuts for a privileged few. Labour will prioritize ordinary families.”


Baron Stewart Wood, a Labour life peer in the House of Lords, said that neo-liberalism is dead and we should not be afraid to say it.


He said: “The model doesn’t work any more. There’s no choice but to have a different economic model.”


The crowd-puller of the evening was the Question Time session late in the evening. The hall was packed out with members and non-party members alike who were eager to put their questions forward to the panel.


While journalist Dan Hodges believed that “there is not going to be an alternative”, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “We will repeal the NHS bill, no to top-down re-organisation,” a statement which received a huge round of applause.


He went on to stress the importance of early intervention and said: “Public services don’t prioritise prevention.”


Aside from health care, the majority of the questions being put forward to the panel were related to youth unemployment and how to engage voters once more.


Dan Hodges said: “Labour will have to develop an education policy. I don’t know what their policy is.”


Andy Burnham admitted to his party’s failings. He said: “We didn’t do enough to raise the aspirations of those not going to university. I don’t know how these kids are going to get on with life.”


He went on to say, with much agreement from the audience, that the government protects the benefits of older people as they are more likely to vote, whereas with the under-30s there has been a decline in turnout at elections, hence why they are ‘attacked’ more.


With so many topics and questions raised on day one of the conference, it is clear that there will be even more questions raised, which may shape future policies of the Labour Party.


The conference will come to an end on Thursday 4th October.


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