Labour conference 2018 - guide to the biggest and best fringe events

Written by David Singleton on 21 September 2018 in Diary

The biggest, best and most intriguing fringe events taking place in Liverpool.

The Labour annual conference offically gets under way 1030 on Sunday 23 September with an address by National Executive Committee chair Andy Kerr and sessions in the main hall on "party democracy and campaigning". John McDonnell is up on the podium at 12:15 on Monday while Jeremy Corbyn will close the conference with his leader's speech at 12:15 on Wednesday.  Meanwhile on the fringe circuit...



Labour rally

Saturday 18:00, Pier Head

Jeremy Corbyn and various Labour MPs will unoffically kick off conference in the usual Corbynite way - with a noisy rally and uplifting speeches about how Labour will “build a country for the many, not the few”. There will also be music from The Farm, Captain Ska, The Christians, DJ Jon Mclure (Reverend and the Makers) and DJ Niro. According to Labour’s Facebook page 1,600 people are going and 4,100 people are “interested” in turning up.



Unite/Mirror: Real Britain, Where People Have a Voice

Sunday 1230, ACC

With Unite boss Len McLuskey and shadow chancellor John McDonnell on the panel and top Mirror hack Kevin Maguire in the chair, this discussion should not be short of newslines.  If Maguire steers the chat towards Brexit it should get particularly interesting. In recent months Unite has left the door open to another referendum on the government’s Brexit deal, while McDonnell appears determined to keep it shut. Who will blink first?



The World Transformed: Radical Bus Tour with Dan Carden

Sunday 13:00, Black-E Outside


Before entering the Commons, Dan Carden worked for Unite as an adviser to Len McLuskey. The MP for Liverpool Walton is also reported to have worked as a bus driver at one point and at this year’s conference he appears to be returning to his roots with a “radical bus tour” around his hometown. According to organisers Momentum, the bus tour will “visit key locations of protest, struggle and social progress” with Carden on the mic and space for only 49 passengers. Probably wisely, the Labour MP won’t also be driving the bus.



The Guardian: Angela Rayner interview

Sunday 15:30, ACC


Turn up to this session for a wide-ranging interview with the shadow education secretary who many Westminster insiders see as the obvious successor to Jeremy Corbyn. Rayner has not done much to dampen down the speculation, but would she carry on like Corbyn or stick to her soft left credentials? The session could shed some light. It is also a rare opportunity to see Guardian editor-in-chief Kath Viner in action.



The World Transformed: A World for the Many

Sunday 17:30, Hinterlands Main Space

Get there early for Jeremy Corbyn’s big appearance at the ‘alternative Labour conference’, hosted by Momentum. If it’s anything like last year’s event then it will be packed to the rafters and the Labour leader will get a rock star welcome from his adoring fans. Also on the bill are commentator Owen Jones and writer Naomi Klein.



Labour Assembly Against Austerity / Unite:  Winning for Labour

Sunday 17:30, ACC


Expect plenty of fighting talk at the first offical conference event with a host of heavyweight Corbynites on the bill. Among those listed are usual left wing rabble rousers John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Rebecca Long Bailey, Richard Burgon and Chris Williamson. Also due to speak for the first time at one of these events and show what she is made of is recently-elected Battersea MP Marsha de Cordova.



The World Transformed: Wargaming A Radical Government

Sunday 17:30, Black E-Studio

It’s fair to say that this one is not your typical fringe event. Rather than four people sitting behind and table and pontificating, TWT is having a game based on the acclaimed novel A Very British Coup, with fifty players taking on the roles of the different factions of the 1980s Labour party. They must compete and collaborate to ensure that their preferred policies are prioritised by the new government. Others are playing “the malign forces of the deep state…”



Progress Rally

Sunday 18:00, Museum of Liverpool

Back in the Blairite years, the Progress rally was a hot ticket on the opening night of Labour conference. It was the place to see various thrusting stars of the future boldly setting out the next steps for their party. That’s not quite the case these days. Rather, the event acts as a useful guide to which Labour MPs are still refusing to go gently in to the night. This year’s speakers include Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting, Alison McGovern and Luciana Berger. Left wingers who think these lot are Blairite dinosaurs might like the choice of venue for this event.



Resolution Foundation: Inequality in the 21st Century Britain

Sunday 18:00, ACC


For anyone feeling nostalgic about the Labour party after Gordon Brown but before Jeremy Corbyn, this fringe event is the place to be. The star speaker is Ed Miliband while in the chair is Torsten Bell – aka Miliband’s former policy chief who was fingered in 2015 as the architect of the dreaded EdStone. Further good value speakers on the panel include leading Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and laid-back left-wing MP Clive Lewis.




MEND and Hacked Off: Media Manipulation of Minorities and Other Press Abuses

Monday 15:30, ACC


In the 2015 general election, Steve Coogan joined forces with Tom Watson for a ‘Save the NHS’ tour of North London. Coogan then backed Watson's bid for the Labour deputy leadership, stating that “Tom took a stand against bullies in the tabloid press when it would have been easier not to act and he listened to survivors of abuse at a time when their voices weren’t being heard”. Now Hacked Off is hoping to get the band back together, although Watson was yet to confirm his attendance as the fringe listings went to press. Andy Burnham has also been invited to join in the attacks on the tabloid press.



The World Transformed: Acid Corbynism, Consciousness, Club Culture and Collective Joy
Monday 17:30, Hinterlands Theatre

And the award for best fringe event title goes to this one. Probably. But what are they on about? Apparently, the focus will be on “strengthening relationships, deepening ideas, cutting shapes”. The night will start with a “consciousness-raising session to help free your post-capitalist desires followed by short discussions on the struggle against venue closures and what a socialist club culture could look like”. Obviously.



Demos: If Not Leave, What?

Tuesday 10:00, ACC


One Labour Remainer who has not been afraid to put the cat among Jeremy Corbyn’s pidgeons is Andrew Adonis. “If Labour becomes an accomplice to Brexit, it is finished,” the former schools minister has declared. On Twitter this week, he advised Labour that “the first requirement of an Opposition is that it should OPPOSE when the country is being trashed”. Turn up to this session to see an erudite and increasingly controversial Labour peer  venting spleen his spleen on Brexit, along with along with one of the best commentators on the left, the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush, Nick Clegg’s super-sharp former chief of staff Polly Mackenzie and Labour MP Bridget Phillipson.



The Times: Emily Thornberry interview

Tuesday 13.30, ACC


Time Red Box editor Matt Chorley will quiz the shadow defence secretary about topics including “the direction of the Labour Party” and “its hopes of election success”. Expect him to also push Emily Thornberry on whether she plans to be the next leader of the party and more. Given that Thornberry is probably the sharpest wit in the shadow cabinet and Chorley has a strong claim on being the most amusing journalist in the lobby, this one should be fun.



Unite: Show Racism the Red Card

Tuesday 17:30, ACC


One of the more star-studded fringe events in Liverpool sees Len McLuskey and a quartet of Labour MPs lining with football legend John Barnes set to discuss how to best to counteract racism in sport and wider society. The session comes nine months after Barnes came under fire while for claiming that straight men might feel “uncomfortable” around gay men. Will Len, David Lammy, Jo Stevens, Chi Onuwurah or Tan Dhesi also want to talk to John about also showing homophobia the red card?



 The World Transformed: Pub Quiz with Ed Miliband

Tuesday 19:30, Black-E Main Space


“I can feel a bacon sandwich joke coming on", threatened Ed Miliband as he hosted the pub quiz for The World Transformed at last year’s conference. This year, the former Labour leader is back in the hotseat again with organisers billing him as a “radio DJ sensation”. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Miliband will be improving on last year’s excellent questions. In 2017, they included gems such as “What brand was the famous grey Corbyn shell suit?” and “Who said: 'I am last thing standing between you and apocalypse'. Hillary Clinton or Barry Gardiner?”. Last year's event was won by Calderdale CLP, who saw off competition from rival teams including The Guardian and Centrist Daddy Issues. Will they be back to try and get the double?



Socialist Campaign Group Rally

Tuesday 19:30, Hinterlands Main Space


With left wing firebrands Chris Williamson and Dennis Skinner both on the bill alongside Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, this one is not for the faint-hearted. The rally is being organised by fellow hardcore Corbynite Richard Burgon who has called it “a great opportunity to get together to discuss moving towards a socialist government in Britain with Corbyn as prime minister”.



PoliticsHome Quiz

Tuesday 19:45, ACC

Turn up to see two Labour MPs will pit their wits against political hacks at this light-hearted pub quiz-style event. Absolute boys Stephen Pound and Conor McGinn will take on MSM melts Harry Cole and Kate Devlin and a wildcard team picked from the audience. “The teams will be tested on their knowledge of the last 12 months in politics, and there may well be a few surprises for them as well,” says PolHome editor Kevin Schofield. There will also be free booze and “funny buzzers”.



Mirror Party

Tuesday 20:30, Revolucion de Cuba


The Mirror party is always the hot ticket of the last night of Labour conference - and the one where Labour big cheeses traditionally let their hair down. Luminaries turning up last included Jeremy Corbyn, who appeared with a live band playing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn!’, and Tom Watson, who did karaoke with the paper’s editor. Meanwhile front benchers Angela Rayner and Jon Ashworth did their best to murder the Oasis classic Don’t Look Back in Anger...





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