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Labour conference: what’s on agenda and who to look out for

<span>Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA</span>
Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The Labour faithful return to Liverpool between Sunday 25 and Wednesday 28 September for four days of debating, speeches and singing anthems.

The three waterfront venues for the party conference are the ACC Liverpool arena, Exhibition Centre Liverpool (ECL) and the Pullman hotel.

The big issues

The cost of living crisis – and the party’s call for a reinforced windfall tax to raise money to freeze energy bills – is likely to be central to the conference.

Strikes, including by rail workers in October, are expected to feature heavily. However, there is likely to be friction over Keir Starmer’s ban on frontbenchers joining picket lines, which cost the Ilford South MP, Sam Tarry, his shadow transport minister post in July.

Action on the climate crisis is also high on the agenda. Another issue among members – albeit one that the general public have yet to catch up with – is proportional representation, which is the theme of 90% of motions sent in by constituency Labour parties (CLPs).

Day by day and main speakers

Sunday: A day of reports, although not before a tribute by Starmer to the late Queen Elizabeth II. The main event of the day will be when Angela Rayner delivers her deputy leader’s report, followed later by a discussion on “winning the [next] general election”.

Votes will take place at 3pm after a session in which constitutional amendments will be debated.

Monday: The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, will address the main hall at noon, after a morning session on “better jobs and better work”.

Reeves’s speech will be followed by further votes, and a discussion around “safe and secure communities”, with more votes taking place at 5.40pm.

Tuesday: Starmer will address the main hall – and the country at large – at 2pm in the conference’s set-piece event, in which the Labour leader will seek to project himself as a future prime minister.

In a departure from tradition, he will take questions from delegates, before a session called “a future where families come first” and more votes after 5pm. A session titled “Britain in the world and a green and digital future” will have taken place in the morning.

Wednesday: An “international speaker” – whose identity has yet to be announced – will address delegates after votes and a morning event titled “public services that work from the start”.

It will be headlined by Labour’s frontbenchers for health, mental health and education: Wes Streeting, Rosena Allin-Khan and Bridget Phillipson.

After another address by Rayner, the conference is expected to wrap up at noon.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech to the 2021 conference. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

At the fringe

One event, “Beyond the jubilee: what future for the monarchy”, which is to be hosted on Saturday by the Labour for a Republic group, has already elicited outrage from the Sky News presenter Kay Burley, who told the frontbencher James Murray that it seemed “terribly inappropriate” and “tasteless” after the Queen’s death.

The gamut of seminars, debates, workshops and receptions includes one seeking to take inspiration from the electoral success of Germany’s governing Social Democratic party.

Events centred on discussing Labour’s answer to levelling up include one at which the panel will feature Ryan Shorthouse, the chief executive of the liberal conservative thinktank Bright Blue.

The former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville, now a TV pundit, will speak on Monday at an event about the fan-led review of the sport.


Delegates are expected to approve a motion calling for the party to replace first past the post with a proportional system, an issue that is again expected to be one of the most popular among CLPs.

From the left, a motion by three Momentum branches urges the party to support full public ownership of the energy industry. Another, from Momentum North Essex and the Fire Brigades Union, urges the repeal of all anti-strike laws.

Labour to Win, a centrist and Blairite grouping, has circulated model motions included one committing the party to ensure Britain’s armed forces are well-equipped – and emphasising support for Nato and Ukraine.

Old flames, rising stars

The presence of the former leader Jeremy Corbyn, the independent MP for Islington North, is likely to be a draw at events including a rally by the Socialist Campaign Group on Tuesday evening. He is also on the panel of a fringe event hosted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, called “what would a nuclear war look like?”

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester and a future leadership contender, will be an almost ubiquitous presence, as he is listed to speak at 14 events.

Zarah Sultana
Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana is seen as a beacon of hope for many on the Labour left. Photograph: Ian Davidson/Alamy

Streeting, another tipped for the leadership, is listed to speak at 10 events. Zarah Sultana, one of the party’s youngest MPs and a beacon of hope for many on the Labour left, is listed to speak at a fringe meeting alongside Ed Miliband, an event related to net zero and another about vulnerable families.

What to sing

For the first time in recent memory, and as party strategists continue to seek to emphasise Labour’s patriotic credentials, members will sing the national anthem on Sunday.

The party conference traditionally ends with a rendition of the hymn Jerusalem and the socialist song The Red Flag, with varying degrees of gusto.

Singing with potentially more abandon will take place at events including the LGBT+ Labour disco on Saturday night and a Jamaica party on Sunday organised by the Brent Central MP, Dawn Butler.