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Party conference season begins

18 September 2015

Richard Messingham reflects on the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and provides a précis of the Law Society's party conference activity.


It has been short lived, but we are at the end of this small window of parliamentary activity before the party conference season begins this weekend for three weeks until mid October. Before the conferences start, it has been a remarkably busy time, with the election of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, last Saturday and the appointment of his new shadow ministerial team and his first appearance at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Corbyn's election has been one of contention. Following the announcement on Saturday morning, a number of high profile shadow ministers proceeded to resign over the following days from the frontbench, such as shadow business secretary and former solicitor Chuka Ummuna, and the shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie. They are replaced by a mixture of old hands such as Lord (Charlie) Falconer, who returns to the justice brief, and the second placed leadership contender Andy Burnham, who is now shadow home secretary. They are also joined by some new faces with much less frontbench experience, such as the new shadow chancellor, key Corbyn ally and campaign manager, John McDonnell MP. The names of the new cohort of frontbenchers been announced steadily over the week and only completed this afternoon.

The party conference is a key opportunity for the Law Society's president Jonathan Smithers and vice president Robert Bourns to attend each conference and meet with each party's ministers and shadow ministers to communicate the Society's priorities for justice.

The Labour conference in Brighton will be a big test for Mr Corbyn to see how he, his new cohort of shadow ministers and the thousands of new party supporters and members work together. For Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, it will be an opportunity to collectively lick the wounds of war following the significant loss of MPs in May, but also the opportunity to start planning for the rebuilding of the party to win back their losses in Westminster, local councils and in the European Parliament. Finally the prime minister David Cameron will hope he can still enjoy some of his honeymoon following his significant win in May. Indeed the Conservative conference in Manchester will be something of a party as it is the first time the party has held a majority in the Commons since 1996.

Each week I’ll update you on the key policy debates at each conference, and how the Society will be making sure each party's politicians and members are aware of our key priorities for justice.

Tags: politics | Westminster weekly update | party conferences | Jeremy Corbyn

About the author

Richard Messingham is head of public affairs at the Law Society. He and his team are responsible for supporting the president and CEO to manage the Society's relationships with Parliamentarians, Ministers, civil servants and other major stakeholders of direct relevance to solicitors.
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