Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour conference speech was one of optimism, passion and triumphalism. The message Corbyn wished to project was that Labour are a government in waiting. Here are seven signs that Labour could be set to take Downing Street.
1. The surprise election
The first obvious sign that Labour is standing at the gates of government was June’s general election. Corbyn’s Labour outperformed expectations, and although they did not win, it was the first time Labour had advanced in a general election since 1997. The jump in share of the vote by almost ten percentage points was truly staggering, suggesting that Labour has tapped into something and are ready to take it forward.
2. The polls
Most polls since the election suggest a very small gap in support between Labour and the Tories, with the majority putting Labour ahead. The most recent YouGov poll (22nd – 24th September) puts Labour support at 43%, four points ahead of the Conservatives on 39%. As the recent general election clearly showed, polls can change, but Labour is maintaining its status of a government in waiting that came from the recent election.
3. Theresa May’s transition deal
Last Friday, Theresa May went to Florence and put forward a vision of a two-year post-Brexit transition deal. In August, the Guardian reported that Labour supported a similar process of transition. The BBC has since reported that Jeremy Corbyn has backed May’s call for a two-year transitional arrangement, suggesting that Labour is shifting the government's position on Brexit.
4. Public sector easing austerity
In the middle of September, the government announced that it would be lifting the public-sector pay-cap for prison and policy officers, as reported by the BBC. Labour has long called for a lifting of the cap and a role-back of austerity, and while the Tories are not yet removing the cap for all public-sector workers, the move signals that Labour is winning the economic arguments, and that the government was severely weakened by the election and the unprecedented rise in support for a strongly anti-austerity party.
5. Sadiq Khan and Tom Watson are on board
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson are two of the party’s most high-profile figures, and were at first not the most enthusiastic backers of Jeremy Corbyn to say the least. However, now that Jeremy Corbyn is seen as a prime minister in waiting, the pair have very much changed their tune. Tom Watson’s rendition of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” and Sadiq Khan’s very positive comments of the Labour leader at the party’s conference each show the dramatic change in the party. The divisions still exist, but with Labour at the closest point to power in almost a decade former critics are keeping quiet.
6. Conservative infighting
This one needs little explaining, but with senior cabinet ministers openly fighting over Brexit, the contrast of the government and a relatively united Labour party gives the latter a chance to portray themselves as a legitimate government in waiting.
7. Tuition fees
This is yet to be confirmed, but a report in the Times in the middle of September suggested that Philip Hammond was looking to make major cuts to tuition fees. Like with the public-sector pay-cap being lifted for the police, such a move would show that Labour, who promised to remove tuition fees at the general election, are winning the argument and gaining ground at the government’s expense.