Labour’s conference in Liverpool has ended with the traditional renditions of the Red Flag and Jerusalem.
Here’s what we learned during the party’s time on the banks of the Mersey:
– Sir Keir is in a secure position as Labour leader, but at 61 and setting out plans for at least a decade in power, the next generation of senior figures in the party is already attracting a lot of attention. Fringe events featuring the 40-year-old Wes Streeting were routinely packed while those featuring 44-year-old shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have been standing room only. Deputy leader Angela Rayner, 43, delivered a crowd-pleasing speech to kick off the conference before keeping a lower and more tempered profile than in previous years.
– The mass killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas cast a sombre shadow over the Labour conference where it also posed tricky questions for a party whose membership has often sought to raise the struggles of the Palestinian people. Sir Keir swiftly condemned Hamas as “terrorists”. Jeremy Corbyn, attending a nearby left-wing festival, resisted directly criticising the militants who rule over Gaza. The drastic change in the party since Mr Corbyn’s leadership, during which Palestinian flags were waved in the conference hall, was further demonstrated when the audience was brought to its feet by Sir Keir using his keynote speech to forcefully support Israel’s right to defend itself. The transition did not go without hitch, however. Shadow minister Afzal Khan was forced to apologise for appearing at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall calling for the end of the “apartheid” in Israel.
– Former senior civil servant and partygate investigator Sue Gray was seen prowling the conference after being installed as Sir Keir’s chief of staff, in a sign Labour is getting ready for government after more than a decade in opposition. Frontbenchers were coming up with plans to hit the ground running and there was no shortage of warnings of the task ahead, with Sir Keir arguing that as prime minister he would face a combination of the challenges taken on by predecessors Sir Tony Blair, Harold Wilson and Clement Attlee.
– The party is unashamedly trying to occupy the political centre ground, believing the Tories have drifted to the right and left moderate voters up for grabs. Sir Keir highlighted in his conference speech how he had transformed Labour since Mr Corbyn’s leadership to no longer being a party of “gesture politics” and “protest”. Labour aides were eager to stress the differences between their conference and the Tories’ gathering last week, which was considered a more muted affair, as Rishi Sunak scrapped the Manchester leg of HS2 while speaking from a convention centre in a former train station in that very city.
– Labour insiders believe Mr Sunak will call a May election and the party said its finances were in a position to “invest more in this campaign than ever before”. But they are acutely aware that overturning the crushing defeat of 2019 is a huge task, and must work flat out if they are to stand a chance of making it to No 10.