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Labour Party (UK) Conference

The Labour Party Conference, or annual national conference of the Labour Party, is formally the supreme decision-making body of the Party.

Conference decisions

In the United Kingdom, each major political party holds an annual party conference during the party conference season. In the Labour Party, Conference is the supreme body, although the party leadership has made clear, particularly in recent years, that it will ignore the conference's decisions where it does not agree; constitutionally, a British government must be free to make decisions on behalf of the whole population and cannot be bound by any private body.


Delegates to the conference are elected by Constituency Labour Parties, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies. Currently, affiliated trade unions hold 50% of the votes at the conference – down from 80% in the era before Tony Blair, but still considerable. Some 40% of the votes are wielded by the three largest trade unions (Unite, GMB, UNISON).


Resolutions for debate are put forward by CLPs and unions before the conference begins. In recent years, party members have had less say in what is debated at the annual conference, as the party leadership has tried to move policy-making increasingly into the new National Policy Forums, which meet in private.

Role of the NEC

The National Executive Committee leads the conference (although the details of the conference, including what is debated, are managed by the Conference Arrangements Committee) and if it does not agree with a resolution, the committee may put pressure on the backers to withdraw or remit it. Remittance means that the resolution's backers agree to "send back" the resolution to the National Executive so that it can consider the matter in more detail; this is viewed by some as a mere delaying tactic. The resolutions voted upon are normally composites, meaning that they have been compiled by combining several resolutions put forward by different bodies into a single wording agreed beforehand.


Many critics[who?] argue that the Labour Party Conference has become less democratic in recent years[when?] and more like a party rally; some would[who?] compare it disparagingly with the American party conventions, which are perceived in the UK in those terms. Others[who?] would say that, because divisions in a party are unpopular electorally, it has been to the party's advantage to move disputes behind closed doors; they would also argue that the Labour Conference is more democratic than that of the rival Conservative Party, which political scientists have traditionally perceived as a more top-down or hierarchical party than Labour.

List of 20th-century conferences

Of the Labour Representation Committee

Date Location Chairman
27–28 February 1900 London W. Steadman
1 February 1901 Manchester J. Hodge
20–23 February 1902 Birmingham W. Davies
19–21 February 1903 Newcastle J. Bell
4–5 February 1904 Bradford J. Hodge
26–29 January 1905 Liverpool A. Henderson

Of the Labour Party

Date Location Chairman Notes
15–17 February 1906 London A. Henderson
24–26 January 1907 Belfast J. Stephenson
20–22 January 1908 Hull W. Hudson
27–29 January 1909 Portsmouth J. Clynes
9–11 February 1910 Newport J. Keir Hardie
1–3 February 1911 Leicester W. Robinson
24–26 January 1912 Birmingham B. Turner
29–31 January 1913 London G. Roberts
27–30 January 1914 Glasgow T. Fox
1915 no conference
26–28 January 1916 Bristol W. Anderson
23–26 January 1917 Manchester G. Wardle
23–25 January 1918 Nottingham W. Purdy Conference adjourned and then resumed in London 26 February 1918
26–28 June 1918 London W. Purdy
25–27 June 1919 Southport J. McGurk
22–25 June 1920 Scarborough W. Hutchinson
26–29 June 1923 London S. Webb
7–10 October 1924 London R. MacDonald
29 September-2 October 1925 Liverpool C. Cramp
11–15 October 1926 Margate R. Williams
3–7 October 1927 Blackpool F. Roberts
1–5 October 1928 Birmingham G. Lansbury
30 September-4 October 1929 Brighton H. Morrison
6–10 October 1930 Llandudno Susan Lawrence
5–8 October 1931 Scarborough S. Hirst
3–7 October 1932 Leicester G. Lathan
2–6 October 1933 Hastings J. Compton
1–5 October 1934 Southport W. Smith
30 September-4 October 1935 Brighton W. Robinson
5–9 October 1936 Edinburgh Jennie Adamson
4–8 October 1937 Bournemouth H. Dalton
1938 no conference
29 May-2 June 1939 Southport G. Dallas
13–16 May 1940 Bournemouth Barbara Gould
2–4 June 1941 London J. Walker
25–28 May 1942 London W. Green
14–18 June 1943 London A. Dobbs
11–15 December 1944 London G. Ridley
21–25 May 1945 Blackpool Ellen Wilkinson
10–14 June 1946 Bournemouth H. Laski
26–30 May 1947 Margate P. Noel-Baker
17–21 May 1948 Scarborough E. Shinwell
6–10 June 1949 Blackpool J. Griffiths
2–6 October 1950 Margate S. Watson
1–3 October 1951 Scarborough Alice Bacon
29 September-3 October 1952 Morecambe H. Earnshaw
28 September-2 October 1953 Margate Arthur Greenwood
27 September-1 October 1954 Scarborough W. Burke
10–14 October 1955 Margate Edith Summerskill
1–5 October 1956 Blackpool E. Gooch
30 September-4 October 1957 Brighton Margaret Herbison
29 September-3 October 1958 Scarborough T. Driberg
28–29 November 1959 Blackpool Barbara Castle
3–7 October 1960 Scarborough G. Brinham
2–6 October 1961 Blackpool R. Crossman
2–5 October 1962 Brighton H. Wilson
30 September-4 October 1963 Scarborough D. Davies
12–13 December 1964 Brighton Anthony Greenwood
27 September–October 1965 Blackpool R. Gunter
3–7 October 1966 Brighton W. Padley
2–6 October 1967 Scarborough J. Boyd
30 September-4 October 1968 Blackpool Jennie Lee
29 September-3 October 1969 Brighton Eirene White
28 September-2 October 1970 Blackpool A. Skeffington
4–8 October 1971 Brighton I. Mikardo
2–6 October 1972 Blackpool A. Benn
1–5 October 1973 Blackpool W. Simpson
27–30 November 1974 London J. Callaghan
26 April 1975 London F. Mulley Special Conference on the Common Market
29 September–October 1975 Blackpool F. Mulley
27 September-1 October 1976 Blackpool T. Bradley
3–7 October 1977 Brighton Joan Lestor
2–6 October 1978 Blackpool Joan Lestor
1–5 October 1979 Brighton F. Allaun
29 September-3 October 1980 Blackpool Lady Jeger
27 September-2 October 1981 Brighton A. Kitson Minute's silence at the Conference in memory of Bill Shankly, former Liverpool FC manager and lifelong Labour supporter, when news of his death was announced[2]
27 September-1 October 1982 Blackpool Dame J. Hart
3–8 October 1983 Brighton S. McCluskey
1–5 October 1984 Blackpool E. Heffer
29 September-4 October 1985 Bournemouth A. Hadden
28 September-3 October 1986 Blackpool N. Hough
27 September-2 October 1987 Brighton S. Tierney
2–7 October 1988 Blackpool N. Kinnock
1–6 October 1989 Brighton D. Skinner
30 September-5 October 1990 Blackpool Jo Richardson
29 September-4 October 1991 Brighton J. Evans
27 September-2 October 1992 Blackpool T. Clarke
26 September-1 October 1993 Brighton D. Blunkett
3–7 October 1994 Blackpool D. Blunkett
29 April 1995 London G. Colling Special Conference on the Party Constitution
2–6 October 1995 Brighton G. Colling
30 September-4 October 1996 Blackpool Diana Jeuda
29 September-3 October 1997 Brighton R. Cook
28 September-2 October 1998 Blackpool R. Rosser
27 September-1 October 1999 Bournemouth Brenda Etchells [3]

From 2000

2000 Brighton

The international guest speaker was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa.[5]

2001 Brighton

The international guest speaker was Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor of Germany.[6]

2002 Blackpool

The international guest speaker was Bill Clinton, former President of the United States of America.[7]

2003 Bournemouth

The international guest speaker to address conference was Hamid Karzai, the first President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.[8]

2004 Brighton

The 2004 party conference was held in Brighton during the final week of September. Conference rejected a call for withdrawal from Iraq, but accepted a resolution calling for renationalisation of the railways; the leadership declared that it would ignore this. The conference received some international glamour when it was addressed by the Irish rock star Bono who called for more action to combat the spread of AIDS and the debt crippling African countries.[9]

Conference closed with the singing of The Red Flag and Jerusalem.

2005 Brighton

Over 600 people were held under the recent terrorism acts, including Walter Wolfgang an 82-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany who was arrested for attempting to re-enter the conference without a pass. None was subsequently charged.[10][11]

2006 Manchester

In 2006 the conference was held in Manchester at the G-Mex and Manchester International Conference Centre from 24 to 28 September. It was the first time in 50 years[citation needed] the main Labour conference was not held at a seaside town and the first time since 1917 the Labour conference had been held in Manchester. This followed Labour's Spring 2004 conference which was held at the G-Mex for the first time. The conference was Blair's last as leader after he stated this would be the case just before the conference and at the conference itself. The start of the conference was marked with protests against the Iraq War.

Tony Blair, in his last speech to conference as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister, praised the work of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.[12]

The conference was addressed in a joint session by Labour's Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and the Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa on the subject of climate change. Bob Geldof and Monica Naggaga from Oxfam (Uganda) spoke together about the plight of Africa. The main international guest speaker was the former US President Bill Clinton. Another international visitor – but not a speaker to the conference – was Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel.

St Johns C.E. Primary School's steel band also performed there before Tony Blair came on stage.

2007 Bournemouth

The 2007 conference was held in the Bournemouth International Centre from 23 to 27 September. The conference was the first with Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, and he laid out his plans for his premiership.

2008 Manchester

The 2008 conference was held between 20 and 24 September in Manchester at Manchester Central (formerly G-Mex). The opening day of conference was moved from Sunday to Saturday to allow people who work during the week to attend. The Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, delivered his keynote address on 23 September.

2009 Brighton

The 2009 conference was held in Brighton from 27 September to 1 October 2009.[13] It is noted for a particularly impassioned address from Peter Mandelson given on 28 September in which he claimed that Labour was in "the fight of our lives" as the forthcoming general election approached.[14] Gordon Brown gave his keynote address to the conference on the afternoon of 29 September, saying that Labour was "not done yet".[15] Shortly afterwards Britain's biggest selling newspaper, The Sun announced that it would withdraw its support for the Labour Party and gave its backing to the Conservatives.[16] Union leader and Labour supporter Tony Woodley responded to this by tearing up a copy of that edition of The Sun, telling the audience:In Liverpool, we learnt a long time ago what to do. I suggest the rest of the country should do exactly the same thing;[17] in reference to the hostility felt in Liverpool towards The Sun newspaper following its controversial allegations about the behaviour of Liverpool FC supporters during the Hillsborough disaster 20 years earlier.[18]

2010 Manchester

The 2010 Conference took place between 26–30 September 2010 at Manchester Central Conference Centre.[19] The conference started with the announcement of the results of the 2010 leadership election and was Ed Miliband's first conference as leader. In his first major speech as leader on 28 September, Miliband told delegates that his "new generation" would return the party to power.[20] The following day David Miliband announced he would not be serving in his brother's shadow cabinet, although he would continue as an MP.[21] Other highlights of the conference included activists condemning the coalition government's proposed public spending cuts as "obscene" on 27 September,[22] and a close of conference address from Harriet Harman in which she told delegates that Ed Miliband would "fortify" the party.[23]

2011 Liverpool

The 2011 Conference took place in Liverpool from 25–29 September. On 26 September delegates voted to scrap the tradition of Shadow Cabinet elections.[24] Ed Miliband's keynote speech on 27 September suffered a five-minute blackout after all media communications were lost.[25]

2012 Manchester

The 2012 Conference was held in Manchester from 30 September–4 October at Manchester Central Conference Centre. Labour Leader Ed Miliband's speech was the first by a Labour leader in around twenty years to be delivered without the use of an Autocue, enabling him to walk up and down the stage during his speech while maintaining eye contact with his audience, replicating the style of David Cameron in 2005 when running for leadership of the Conservative Party.[26]

2013 Brighton

The 2013 Conference took place in Brighton 22–25 September at the Brighton Centre.

2014 Manchester

A special conference was held at ExCeL London on 1 March to approve rule changes arising from Ray Collins review of party reform.[27]

The 2014 Conference was held in Manchester from 21–24 September at Manchester Central Conference Centre.

2015 Brighton

The 2015 conference will take place in Brighton between 27 September and 30 September.[28]

The results of the leadership and deputy leadership elections will be announced prior to this conference on 12 September at a special conference.[29]


  1. ^ a b David Butler and Gareth Butler, Twentieth Century British Political Facts 1900–2000, Macmillan 2000, p. 156
  2. ^ "Beginning a football revolution". BBC News. 30 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "Conference 99: Labour". BBC News. 21 July 2002. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Butler and Butler, p. 157
  5. ^ "Conference 2000: Labour". BBC News. 21 July 2002. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Conference 2001: Labour". BBC News. 18 February 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Conference 2002: Labour". BBC News. 24 January 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Conference 2003: Labour". BBC News. 3 March 2004. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Labour Conference 2004". BBC News. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Over 600 held under terror act at Labour conference". (Johnston Publishing). 3 October 2005. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Conferences 2005". BBC News. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "It's hard to let go, admits Blair". BBC News. 26 September 2006. 
  13. ^ "Annual Conference 2011". The Labour Party. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Election up for grabs – Mandelson". BBC News. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  15. ^ "We're not done yet, insists Brown". BBC News. 29 September 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  16. ^ Naughton, Phillipe (30 September 2009). "Labour fails to conceal its anger after The Sun switches to support Conservatives". Times Online (Times Newspapers Limited). Retrieved 30 September 2009. (subscription required)
  17. ^ "Harman turns fire on Sun decision". BBC News. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  18. ^ Owen Gibson and Helen Carter (18 April 2009). "Hillsborough: 20 years on, Liverpool has still not forgiven the newspaper it calls 'The Scum'". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "Labour leadership result: candidates head to Manchester to hear verdict". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 25 September 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Griffiths, Emma (28 September 2010). "Ed Miliband tells Labour: We're the optimists now". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  21. ^ "David Miliband says he won't join brother Ed's team". BBC News (BBC). 29 September 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  22. ^ Wheeler, Brian (27 September 2010). "Labour activists reject 'obscene' coalition cuts". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  23. ^ Griffiths, Emma (30 September 2010). "Harriet Harman says Labour 'fortified' by new leader". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  24. ^ King, Victoria (26 September 2011). "Labour delegates vote to scrap shadow cabinet elections". BBC News. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "Labour leader Ed Miliband's keynote speech attacks Tories and promises 'new bargain' despite broadcast black-out from Liverpool". Liverpool Echo (Trinity Mirror). 27 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  26. ^ Andy McSmith (2 October 2012). "Miliband ditches the autocue for his Labour Conference speech, but who planted the tree?". The Independent newspaper. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Building a ‘One Nation Labour Party’: the "Collins Review" into Labour Party reform". Socialist Health Association. 24 Frbruary 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  28. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "Timetable announced for Labour Leader and Deputy Leader elections". 13 May 2015. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 

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