Labour conference is (still) a shambles, says public affairs chief

Written by Dods staff on 20 September 2017 in News

Darren Murphy joined an 'Evening With The Editors' debate hosted by Dods Group.

A senior public affairs professional and former aide to Tony Blair has blasted Labour’s approach to this year’s annual conference.

As lobbyists prepare to return to Labour conference after staying away last year and branding it a shambles, public affairs stalwart Darren Murphy criticised Jeremy Corbyn for sidelining two of the party’s key figures, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham.

“In a year where there’s been a major terrorist attack in Manchester and a series of terrorist attacks in London, it is outrageous that the mayors of those cities – both of whom are Labour and both of whom won, unlike Jeremy Corbyn – it’s outrageous that those people aren’t being invited not just to speak but to be the core of the conference,” he said.

As first reported by HuffPost UK, neither the London mayor or the Greater Manchester mayor will have speaking slots on the platform in Brighton. Meanwhile Corbyn and his closest allies are to be given “starring” roles.

Defending the move, allies of the leader have briefed that they want to allot more time for party members to speak in the main hall. "There is a strong enthusiasm for opening it up more to our members, who played such a vital role in the general election campaign. This would mean more time for debate for members, which could reduce speaking time from the platform," said a Labour source.

But others suspect that allies of Corbyn want to take revenge for Khan’s critical comments about the leader in the past year and for Burnham’s absence from a pro-Corbyn Momentum rally in Manchester after his triumph in the mayoral race.

Murphy served as a special adviser to Blair in Number 10 and to John Reid in the Home Office, before joining APCO and then establishing the lobbying firm Centreground Political Communications. He sold the agency to Bell Pottinger in 2014 and now works at Sans Frontieres Associates, which is driving forward the Brexit Exchange project with Dods, owner of Public Affairs News.

Murphy was speaking in a central London 'Evening With The Editors' debate hosted by Dods Group. Other participants included PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield, Parliament magazine editor Brian Johnson and Public Affairs News and Total Politics editor David Singleton.

Murphy said: "One of the tasks about politics of course is to involve the public and members of political parties. But more than that it’s about leadership, and that means you want to hear from the people who you’ve selected and elected to be leaders of your own local party or leaders of your city and certainly members of parliament who have a leadership job to do."

He also predicted that Brexit will never happen, with Labour ending up voting against the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.












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