Labour Party Conference 2013 Overview

By Shane Tyas & Helen Davidson

From 22nd to 25th September, the Annual Labour Party Conference came to Brighton, raising issues that affect everyone all over the UK. There have been several concerns addressed in the news recently, some more prominent examples including the freeze on gas and electricity bills and the proposals to build a high speed railway line from London to Birmingham (HS2).

On, day 3 of the Press Conference, Ed Milliband pledged to freeze energy bills until 2017 if Labour were elected in 2015. Speaking yesterday at the Brighton Centre, Mr Milliband announced “…The next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices, until the start of 2017, your bills will be frozen, benefiting millions of families and millions of businesses”. On Monday 23rd September Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls, called for the HS2 project to be scrapped. He stated that the project was “totally mismanaged” and a bad value for money for the taxpayer.


In reaction to this statement, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas of Brighton Pavilion constituency suggested that this statement would just be a temporary solution to the problem of rising energy bills. “He was right to mention fuel bills as a major issue but the two-year freeze isn’t going to make it go away in the long-term” Alternatively, she proposed that the UK should invest in renewable energies because they would cut bills for millions of households, create hundreds of jobs and reduce carbon emissions. Caroline Lucas is widely known to be against the HS2 rail project, deeming it “expensive” and environmentally damaging”.


This afternoon we contacted Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for the Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven constituency via Twitter with the following questions. Firstly we asked “What do you think about the freezes to energy prices?”  To which he responded “Energy prices are very important to many hard-working families in Brighton and Peacehaven.”Secondly, we asked “What are your thoughts on the HS2?”  To this he replied “I am a fan of investing in railways. Locally I would like to see increased capacity Brighton to London.” His Tweets suggest that he is in favour for reducing energy prices and supposedly in favour of building railways.

In a brief telephone interview with Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes constituency, we asked him the same questions. On the topic of energy freezes, he told us “It would be a nice idea, if it can be done, but it is fraught with difficulty and very expensive.” In favour of HS2, he remarked, “It is essential for this country, it is important for the economic development of the North.”  His reply made a strong case against freezing energy prices from a realistic stance based upon the current issues involving diminishing natural energy resources and their rising value. He is also aware that more train services are needed to cater for the increase in rail commuters.


All local Brighton and Lewes constituencies have varying opinions on the two issues we have discussed for this overview. The feedback was generally positive in reaction to Ed Milliband’s speech. He was praised for the issues he raised during the conference but not everybody agreed that Labour came to realistic solutions to the above economic problems.


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