Conference will lift the lid on Labour in power

Published: 18 January 2024 at 17:22

Houses of Parliament

Anglia Ruskin event marks 100 years since party formed its first government

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Labour Party forming its first government, and politicians and leading political academics will gather in Cambridge on Saturday, 27 January to discuss Labour’s record in power. 

The “How Labour Governs” conference is organised by the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), and will feature speakers including former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and political historian David Edgerton.

The conference will consider the problems the Labour Party has previously faced when governing, how it has dealt with economic challenges, and how it has changed Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world.

Speakers will explore the statecraft of Labour in power, looking at how Labour has adjusted to taking over the levers of the British state, to what extent Labour governments controlled their own destinies and implemented their own programmes, and how they were able to rethink policy and take account of the changing electorate.

Rohan McWilliam, Professor of Modern British History and the co-director of the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“This event is bringing together historians, policy specialists and politicians to reflect on Labour’s historical record at a time when a new Labour government, if current polls are to be believed, is likely to be elected at some point over the next year.  

“In the one hundred years since 1924, Labour governments have been relatively rare. Nevertheless, the administrations of Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair can claim to have been decisive, so there are certainly lessons for Sir Keir Starmer’s team to learn from the party’s past record in government.

“The conference will consider how effective Labour has been at governing in hard times, how it has managed to present attractive policies to the electorate, and explore the ways in which the party has built coalitions. We hope the conference will generate ideas which will feed into political discussion more widely, and therefore it promises to be an important event on the path to the next general election.”

In the keynote speeches, political historian David Edgerton will cover Harold Wilson’s attempts at modernisation, while former Home Secretary Charles Clarke will talk about the challenges facing Labour in returning to government after a long period out of power.

Other speakers include writer and historian David Torrance, Richard Johnson (Queen Mary, University of London), Charlotte Lydia Riley (University of Southampton), Jonathan Portes (Kings, London), Richard Toye (University of Exeter), and Pamela Cox (University of Essex), who will be standing as Labour's candidate in Colchester at the next election.

The conference, at Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus, will run from 9.30am to 6pm on Saturday, 27 January, and is aimed at anyone interested in the future of progressive politics. The conference costs £16 to attend and bookings close on 22 January. More information is available here