Theresa May’s conference speech is famous now for a lot of mishaps.
Being poorly, with a nasty cough; spilling water; a prankster getting her to accept a fake P45, and then talking to Boris Johnson; wearing a chic bracelet using paintings by Leon Trotsky’s girlfriend; the lettering falling off the conference slogan background.
Well, imagine the fuss and ridicule if such mishaps happened to a Labour Leader at their conference speech. The nearest I can think is the huge fuss made over Ed Miliband not mentioning the deficit in one speech.
Now, I know Kinnock and Wilson made conference speeches that defined them; Gaitskill made a famous one too; and Blair’s speeches could sometimes give you something to work with, like his speech on respect.
But I’m not sure I know of a conference speech that has destroyed a leader (possibly Iain Duncan Smith’s “small man roar” speech).
So the real point to draw from May’s speech is her vision of “the British Dream”, which in essence is that the children should do better in life than their parents (just at the time this is no longer proving to be true).
Underpinning this was a repeated assertion in the belief in free markets. (Then kinda undermined by saying more council housing was now needed.)
Better I think to state how we learned that in life, we needed everyone to succeed, especially drawing from World War 2.
So, coming together; full employment, so that people are active and pay in, rather than too many only taking out; proper jobs and proper goods, so that we’re not subsiding cheap labour and illness; more common ownership and more money to the many to keep businesses going, rather than profits to the very rich that are taken away; free education and quality child development; health services free at the point of use and service within deadlines; quality housing and housing services – and stop subsidising the private landlords that don’t deliver; valuing good government, enabling local government to deliver more and bringing in accountability; tackle the newish challenges of globalisation, aging societies and climate change; a global solution for abolishing nuclear weapons; a free society – rights, responsibilities and respect; and winning the World Cup.
Alright, maybe the World Cup in the modern era is a bit impossible – but elements of the rest were all implemented and overseen by Attlee, Wilson and even Blair.
Things tend to go wrong when you codify this as an ideology, but these are the values of British Socialism / democratic Socialism. (British cos we were once the country that drove these values, not cos we should be isolationist.)
And big change is needed. Radical change. And some kind of repeat of the 1945 “British Resolve” is needed.