The most exciting part of political conferences is not the main conference hall but the fringe. It is here that people are much more likely to speak their mind and real issues are debated – not set piece presentations ( even if Ed Miliband forgot a bit of his!).
Two totally unreported contributions came from two of the more feisty women in the Labour – both with strong views.
Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons, chair of the conference and the national policy forum made a refreshingly off message analysis of present British society and where it is going.
Speaking at a Unite union fringe organised by Class (Centre for Labour and Social Studies)- analysing the rapidly widening gap between the mega elite and the ordinary worker – she actually described the present situation in society as ” immoral”.-pointing out that top directors now earn 130 times more than their workforce.
She also defended benefit claimants -pointing out that the media campaign labelling or libelling them all as scroungers – had meant ordinary people coming to her Wirral surgery were wrongly put on the defensive just because they were claiming from the state.
She was on a platform where the speakers were firmly of the view that the present economic situation was unsustainable, companies were hoarding money rather than investing and people could only spend by getting more into debt.
It shouldn’t be surprising that you hear such views at a Labour conference, but it is surprising these days to hear such comments from a member of the shadow Cabinet.
The second feisty contribution came from Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons public accounts committee. She was speaking on a different platform with the Policy Network. Here the issue was how Labour could make a difference by accepting the present economic situation and using public money more effectively.
Superficially you might think the two women were on different planets but actually they complimented each other.
Margaret Hodge, with enormous experience of investigating Whitehall scandals, tax avoidance and the dodgy behaviour of private companies providing public services, had a practical route map on how Labour could handle this.
Her solution including forcing the companies to become transparent with the way they spend or misspent our money, using public procurement to secure the living wage for all workers, clamping down far more effectively on tax avoidance including collecting the taxes, and looking at radical five-year plans to innovate public services, rather than the Treasury knee jerk reaction top impose cuts with three months notice.
Ed Miliband would be mad if he did not appoint her to head a new unit with oversight of public contracts if he wins the election – she could then insist on implementing this programme rather than report on the messes left behind by the private sector.
He would also be mad not to promote Angela Eagle into a job where she could influence the direction of public spending. Both women have enormous talents. Angela provides a moral compass, Margaret a practical route map out of an increasingly unfair society.