A commentary on events at the Labour Party conference
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Dark clouds were gathering on Monday morning as Labour conference delegates – many struggling to protect themselves from the heavy rain beneath umbrellas upturned by the strong wind rolling in off the Mersey – arrived for Monday’s proceedings.
However, it appeared Saturday’s announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding leadership victory meant the inclement weather could not put a dampener on a pervading mood of optimism, with delegates wet – but in cheerful mood.
Some who gathered for the annual reception of the Association of Labour Councillors the previous evening were quick to emphasise their backing for the re-chosen one, wax lyrical on their admiration for his principles, rejoice in his integrity and celebrate his final defeat over the last remnants of New Labour.
Mr Corbyn’s arrival for a brief impromptu address was met with warm appreciation and he was quick to return the love.
He praised the dedication of Labour councillors for fighting for their communities in the face of a hostile government and promised, as prime minister, to devolve more power in order to tackle social inequality.
Despite a lack of detail on how this would be achieved, this was what many wanted to hear and met with loud appreciation from the attentive majority.
But the general sound of chatter from the back of the room from a significant number who were more interested in lively conversation with their colleagues and the evening’s refreshments than what their party leader had to say, told a different story.
This apparent indifference suggested that, while many delegates were keen to set a tone of optimism, there remained significant disappointment among some Labour councillors about the leadership result.
Outside the reception some felt free to be more candid about their concerns, while others vowed, with more than a hint of resignation, to simply get on with the job of serving their community.
One senior London councillor said Mr Corbyn’s attempt to reassure MPs nervous about deselection by constituency parties sounded more like a veiled threat.
He added that the influence Momentum continued to build in the capital could also impact on the future of Labour councillors who were perceived to be dissenters.
Another councillor arriving on Monday morning made no attempt to hide his dismay at the leadership result, saying that a long battle to make Labour at a local level “a party that could do things, rather than just say things, and implement constructive change” had to start again from scratch.
While much is made by Corbyn’s team of the growing party membership and the resounding victory they delivered for their leader, many councillors appear to share the anxiety expressed by many of their parliamentary colleagues about the direction of their party.
Despite attempts at a tone of reconciliation from both Mr Corbyn’s high-profile supporters and some previous detractors, the wounds from a brutal leadership contest appear far from healing.