Highlights from the Labour Conference 2018

27 September 2018
Author: Paul Abernethy

This week saw the Labour Party descend on the city of Liverpool, as parliamentarians, party members, business representatives and civil society organsations came together for three days of debate and political discourse. Bond was there, representing the international development sector and meeting with MPs to build support for international development. 

Amidst the many stalls from business and charities, and the late night fringe events talking about everything and anything, we’ve rounded up the highlights for those working in international development.

International development was key part of the fringe debates

Brexit was the issue that took centre stage amongst most at the conference. Bond, our members, and allies were hard at work, raising the concerns of post-Brexit development, climate change, and the refugee crisis.

Bond held our annual drinks reception on Monday, in partnership with the Labour Campaign for International Development and the Coalition for Global Prosperity, with speeches from MPs Stephen Doughty, Stephen Twigg, and the shadow minister, Dan Carden. 

Focusing on the impact of Brexit on the world’s poor, Stephen Doughty reinforced the need for the sector to develop meaningful partnerships in support of ending extreme poverty, while chair of the International Development Committee Stephen Twigg used his speech to talk about the importance of building the public case for aid. Shadow minister Dan Carden finished off the night by talking about the need for systematic change that lifts people out of poverty and tackles the root causes of inequality. 

The Coalition for Global Prosperity’s Theo Clarke highlighted the importance of aid in contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Bond’s Claire Godfrey explained that the Brexit negotiations should ensure that developing countries are at least not worse off than they are now, and civil society organisations should be at the heart of negotiations. Brexit should not entrench the use of aid to support national political agendas in national security and trade.

Labour wants to tackle inequality and extreme poverty

Earlier this year, Labour’s shadow international development team launched their strategy, "A World for the Many, Not the Few". In this document, the shadow secretary of state Kate Osamor committed the Labour government to not only focusing on tackling extreme poverty, but abject inequality around the world. 

At this year’s conference, Osamor wanted to delve further into the policy by holding an open consultation on the strategy. In the packed out Revolution Bar on Liverpool’s Albert Dock, party members, activists, academics, and other voices from civil society came together to dissect the document and talk through the key themes of the strategy. All of these lively discussions will now feed into Labour’s plans to take this strategy forward.

Development still a focus for many MPs

We met with many MPs throughout the conference. While Westminster is focused on Brexit, it was great to see that international development is still a core focus of a lot of MPs, who were keen to raise issues such as aid in the national interest, the Sustainable Development Goals, safeguarding, and the transparency and accountability of UK aid.

Conference speeches highlighted the need for internationalism

Taking to the stage to address conference, members of the Shadow Cabinet used their platform to reinforce the need for the UK to remain an internationalist nation. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry used her speech to challenge the rise of nationalism, and reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to help and support refugees. Jeremy Corbyn used the leader's keynote to highlight the need for global solidarity on climate change, while calling for the end of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

Bond will be at the Conservative Party Conference next week, so look out for our highlights on all things international development. Check out relevant events at the conference here.

About the author

Paul Abernethy

Paul leads the political advocacy of Bond, working with parliamentarians and ministers in support of ending global poverty.