Monday, September 25, 2006

New Labour: pimp my conference

Peter Mandelson - pictured left - has opened his trap again, making it clear that New Labour interest in trade unions is restricted to cashing their affiliation cheques

‘[Unions] feel they have been shut out of the party but that was their choice to reject New Labour,’ the EU commissioner told a Progress rally.

Hello? It wasn’t the unions that voluntarily reduced themselves to the status of one lobby among many others, with an auxiliary role as unpaid health and safety inspectors.

New Labour walked out on the marriage like a fortysomething bloke at the height of his midlife crisis, dumping its former partner in favour of a particularly meretricious floozy called the business community. And, like most guys in this situation, it will do whatever it takes to keep the trophy bride happy.

While almost all critical resolutions from constituency parties have once again been spiked this year, GMEX will essentially revert to type and host what is essentially a glorified trade fair, as this report in FT makes plain. Business will get free rein to make its case:

‘Companies will be present in greater numbers - and will spend more - at next week's gathering in Manchester than at either the Tory or Liberal Democrat events, despite Mr Cameron's opinion poll lead …

‘The number of companies sponsoring fringe events at the Conservatives' conference in Bournemouth later this month has jumped to 25, compared with 18 last year before Mr Cameron was elected. A further 10 business bodies are paying for exhibition stands.

‘But the corporate influence will be stronger in Manchester. Almost 20 companies and trade organisations will have exhibition stands at Labour's event, paying £3,300 to £12,875 each - plus £850 to £1,000 if they want a banner to distinguish their stand from the dozens of others.


‘Labour refuses to issue its fringe programme before the conference opens. But analysis of events already publicised shows at least 30 companies are sponsoring one or more fringes.

‘Last week's Lib Dem gathering in Brighton, by comparison, could muster only about five corporate stands …

‘The political parties stress the PR and lobbying potential of the conferences when they tout for corporate backing. The Lib Dem brochure for exhibitors, for example, pledges that "our parliamentarians [MPs] will be making daily tours of the exhibition - photos will be available for purchase in the business lounge".

‘One industry PR describes this use of stands as "good slap and dash press work. . .you get the minister down, give them a drink and take a photo".’

The corporatisation of all three major party conferences is simply the thin end of the cash-for-access wedge.

Little wonder that are widely regarded as rigged fruit machines that pay out every time. And being in office, New Labour is the one that guarantees bigger pay-outs for a line of cherries.

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