Sadiq Khan to speak at Labour conference after party rethink

Sadiq Khan speaking

Sadiq Khan has finally secured a speaking slot at Labour conference next week after a party committee overruled a previous decision that he would be blocked from the programme.

The London mayor will now have to start writing a last-minute speech after the conference arrangements committee (CAC) managed to secure him a slot.

Khan had been initially denied an opportunity to address the floor after the party leadership decided time should be preserved for ordinary members to speak. That schedule was endorsed this week by Labour’s ruling national executive committee, which also blocked Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, from the programme.

On Thursday, the CAC approved a programme ensuring Khan a speaking slot, along with a representative of local government. A source with knowledge of the meeting said some committee members had successfully argued that that Labour conference should hear from politicians who are running administrations.

The source said the trade union Unite had argued that speaking time should be reserved for members but that had been overruled. The CAC’s decisions will be put to a vote on Sunday morning at party conference but this is usually waved through as a formality.

A source close to the London mayor’s office said: “Sadiq is happy either way. It’s great if he can give a speech to Labour members. He’d better start writing one. But we don’t want this to be a distraction from the big issues being addressed at conference. We haven’t heard officially from the party.”

Khan, who has previously criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, gave a speech last year under the theme of “Labour in power” that was seen by many as a warning to Corbyn not to forget the importance of winning elections.

The party’s membership has long called for an increased role at conference in place of long speeches from politicians. It is understood Corbyn is keen for speeches to be shorter and the number of speakers trimmed to give members more time for debates.

Keynote speeches are expected from Corbyn, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, and Tom Watson, the deputy leader.

Party sources said that with Labour membership having tripled the leadership was keen to give those members more opportunities to contribute, especially given the effort put in by activists during the election.

The conference, from 24-27 September, is expected to have the biggest turnout of members in 30 years, with about 1,200 likely to attend. Many local constituency parties will send their full contingent of delegates, when normally only a small number would have been sent on cost grounds.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason and Rajeev Syal, for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st September 2017 13.33 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010