As it happened: Labour day two

Key points

  • Shadow chancellor Ed Balls promises that Labour would cut VAT to boost economic growth
  • Delegates vote overwhelmingly to scrap elections for Labour's shadow cabinet
  • Deputy leader Harriet Harman pledges to maintain spending on international development

    Hello and welcome to our coverage of the second day of Labour's autumn conference in Liverpool. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls is in the spotlight today. He will make a keynote speech on the economy, outlining a "five-point plan" for growth, just after midday.


    Other big figures we will be hearing from include deputy leader Harriet Harman, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and shadow defence spokesman Jim Murphy. They are all taking part in a session this morning entitled Britain in the world.


    A little recap on a busy night of fringe meetings on Sunday. Arif Ansari, the BBC's North West political editor, says Harriet Harman attacked Rupert Murdoch at one event. "Liverpool's already kicked out The Sun," she said. "It is time for all the Murdoch papers to be kicked out of Britain."


    Meeting of minds? Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls talk ahead of the latter's speech to conference.

    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband

    Deputy leader and shadow international secretary Harriet Harman is now talking. She praises public support for the recent east Africa famine appeal, saying "our aid matters".


    Ms Harman says it is harder to make the case for spending on international aid at a time of "reckless" cuts at home. But she says the poorest must not "pay the price" for the global financial crisis caused by others.


    Ms Harman suggests not all cabinet ministers are committed to the government's pledge to raise overseas aid spending to 0.7% of national income. But she has a good word for her opposite number Andrew Mitchell.


    Harriet Harman is wrapping up her short speech. She says international aid is about supporting "human rights and justice" not merely "charity and philanthropy". She urges Labour to continue fighting for a "more equal world".


    BBC political reporter Victoria King says Liam Byrne was in full flow at a Progress meeting when some ill-timed technical difficulties struck. He was laying into his opposite number Iain Duncan Smith, saying the "quiet man" of politics was quiet "because he had nothing to say", when his microphone cut out, rendering him not just quiet, but virtually silent. Despite the hitch, he got back into full flow, shouting on without a microphone.


    Lord Kinnock is among those in the audience watching the international aid debate. He is sitting next to his wife Glenys, a minister in the last Labour government.


    The economy is the big talking point today and it has just emerged that the British Chambers of Commerce is urging Chancellor George Osborne to adopt its "five-point plan" for economic growth. Could that be the same "five-point plan" Ed Balls is set to unveil? Doubtful. But the timing is interesting. However, instead of the "Plan B" Labour is calling for, the lobby group wants a "Plan A+" plan focused on both deficit reduction and growth.


    Labour delegates have backed Ed Miliband's plans to scrap elections to the shadow cabinet, the BBC's Victoria King says. It means the Labour leader will be able to name his own shadow ministers, ending a decades-old process which saw them chosen through a ballot of Labour MPs. The move is part of a project, known as Refounding Labour, that Mr Miliband hopes will revitalise the party.


    Deputy leader Harriet Harman makes the case for continuing funding of international aid.

    Harriet Harman

    In the conference hall, the debate is moving from the subject of international aid to defence. Ed Miliband is in his chair to listen to Labour MP Dan Jarvis, a former soldier, say the party "is the voice" of the armed forces.


    Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy is speaking. He says Afghanistan remains the UK's "number one" defence priority and praises the courage of British troops. He calls for a "meaningful political process" to ensure fighting does not continue after foreign troops leave.


    Mr Murphy says the coalition government was right to intervene in Libya to prevent "wholesale slaughter". He says the controversy over the Iraq invasion should not stop the international community from acting when necessary, and the failure to do so in Rwanda was an "eternal shame".


    The BBC's Brian Wheeler - a gnarled conference veteran if ever there was one - reports of unusual levels of unhappiness over security. There is currently a wait of up to two hours for delegates wanting to get into the Liverpool conference centre, with long queues stretching back to Albert Dock, our man says.


    Back in the hall, Jim Murphy goes on the attack over military cuts. He accuses ministers of leaving the UK without any aircraft carriers and allowing members of the armed forces to be "sacked by e-mail". Labour should be proud of its record in office and "strong" stance on defence.


    Somalia's minister for women's development, Maryan Qasim, addresses delegates.

    Maryan Qasim

    Here's a new initiative. Mr Murphy says ex-veterans will be able to join the party for just \u00a31 from now on. The first recruit of the "Pound for Forces" campaign is Corporal Stephen Burke. He tells delegates that he is proud to become a Labour member and urges others to do the same.


    Mr Murphy also announces that MP Dan Jarvis and former defence secretary Lord Robertson will head up a new organisation called Labour Friends of Forces. This will "further embed" the relationship between the party and serving personnel. He ends his speech.


    comments on the BBC story: After a decade of Labour it's going to take more than a five day conference and some slick talk for many people to forget what the Blair/Brown administration have done to this country.


    TUC general secretary Brendan Barber tells the BBC that Labour's leadership is "rising to the challenge" of reforming the economy.


    Labour delegates are now watching a video presentation from the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She says Labour has a "proud history of working for the common man". This conference, she adds, is a reminder that democracy is "achievable" but she stresses that it is not always an "easy option".


    What's going on? A delegate reads up on the conference

    Labour delegates

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi gets a standing ovation as she concludes her video address. Among those on applauding include ex-leader Lord Kinnock and shadow welsh secretary Peter Hain.


    Former cabinet minister Hazel Blears tells BBC Two's Daily Politics Labour can make the coalition a "one-term government".


    Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is now on his feet. Discussing the Arab Spring, he says he was proud the UK was on the side of young people yearning for change not the "old autocrats" in the region.


    The UK "will not tolerate" the violent attacks by the Syrian government on its people and must step up its diplomatic efforts to stop them, Mr Alexander says. He argues that Syrian leader President Assad "must go and must go now".

    Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband

    tweets: Labour's manifesto will set out tough new fiscal rules, and commit to using any windfall from the sale of bank shares on paying down debt.


    Mr Alexander calls for an "independent, viable" Palestinian state to be recognised by the United Nations. But he also says Israel's security must be guaranteed and its citizens be able to live in peace and without the fear of terrorist attacks.


    The thrust of Mr Alexander's speech is that the UK must be "on the right side of history" in its response to the convulsions in the Arab world. But he ends his remarks on a more party political note, claiming that "Britain is so much better than its government".

    Lib Dem Cllr Gareth Kane

    tweets: At this rate, Labour will have signed the coalition agreement by the end of the week #lab11


    Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy praised the government for intervening in Libya.

    Jim Murphy

    From BBC South East's political editor Louise Stewart: I have just seen Chris Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce at the Labour conference. She was at Lib Dems last week too. Will she make it a hat-trick next week in Manchester?


    We are getting ever closer to Mr Balls' big speech, due to begin in about 20 minutes. But before that, delegates are debating Welsh issues. Shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain says \u00a3200,000 has been raised to help the families of the four miners who died earlier this month in the Swansea Valley.


    Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones starts his speech by admitting he is a "tad pleased". The reason for his delight? Not merely being at the party conference, it seems, but the fact that the Welsh rugby team have registered a convincing World Cup victory over Namibia.


    Telly troika: Jim Murphy was everywhere during his speech, thanks to technology.

    Jim Murphy

    Ahead of the shadow chancellor's speech, here are some thoughts from the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson. He says Mr Balls believes that Labour's economic credibility will be restored not by admitting what the party got wrong in the past but by being seen to be right about the future.


    Ending his speech, Carwyn Jones says Labour is in a "privileged" position in Wales and his team must deliver on job creation and economic growth to "build a better Wales".

    Anne Snelgrove

    Labour's parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, tweets: Safely in #lab11 conference hall waiting for @edballsmp to speak & listening to excellent speech from Unite abt battle for work and jobs


    In the hall, the debate on the economy is under way. We are expecting Mr Balls to start speaking soon. A succession of delegates attack the coalition's economic strategy, one telling members they "cannot be bystanders" as the debate intensifies.


    Some more on the hold-ups outside the conference centre. Organisers have set up a separate security entrance for media and party staff. Will this cut the queues substantially?


    Lady and Lord Kinnock watch the debate on international development.

    Lady and Lord Kinnock

    Before Mr Balls gets up, delegates are listenining to 16-year old Rory Weal from Maidstone, who says he is making his conference debut. He says the coalition has taken a "bit of a dislike" to young people and is out of touch with ordinary people. A round of applause from Ed Miliband for that one.


    Mr Balls is now on the stage and is about to speak.

    Labour MP Kerry McCarthy

    tweets: Excellent speech from 16 year old first time delegate, Rory from Maidstone. Standing ovation! @EdBallsMP speech soon.


    Ed Balls starts by paying tribute to "my friend" Ed Miliband. He applauds the Labour's leader "calm and resolute leadership" over Libya, phone hacking and other issues.


    Fulsome praise from Mr Balls for Ed Miliband. He says he is "brave and principled" and someone in whom the British public can place their trust.


    Mr Balls praises the way that Liverpool Council has dealt with the public spending squeeze, comparing it favourably to Derek Hatton's leadership of the council in the 1980s.


    Ed Balls is painting a bleak picture of the state of the economy. He says the UK risks a decade of "economic stagnation", saying it is the most "darkest and dangerous" period in his lifetime.


    There is a global economic crisis and the world must learn the lessons of the 1930s when recession turned into depression, he argues.


    Mr Balls says David Cameron and George Osborne have "abdicated responsibility" over the economy.


    The prime minister and the chancellor "have torn the foundations out of the house" by cutting spending too fast, Mr Balls says. He says Labour's warnings over the past year have been vindicated as growth is flatlining and borrowing is going up.

    Sky News' Jon Craig

    tweets: Ed Balls just delivered a clauseless sentence. Legacy of years as Gordon Brown's chief crony. As Michael Heseltine said: Not Brown, Balls.


    Mr Balls attacks what he says is the government's unwillingness to consider a change of direction on the economy. He says a "growing chorus" of voices, including the International Monetary Fund, is demanding such a move.


    Mr Balls dusts off an old attack on the Conservatives, saying that their economic policy is "hurting but it is not working".


    Here comes an apology for the mistakes that Labour made in office. He says he regrets the decision to abolish the 10p tax rate, a lack of controls on immigration from eastern Europe and not regulating to prevent the "gross irresponsibility" of the banks.


    Mr Balls admits that Labour did not "get everything right" in power. But he will not apologise for his party's commitment to public spending. He contrasts this with what he says is the coalition's "reckless and ideological" programme of cuts - a long round of applause for that.


    The shadow chancellor is now outlining his "five-point" plan for economic growth.


    He calls for a new bank bonus tax to create jobs in construction and other areas and to speed up big infrastructure projects.


    On tax, Mr Balls wants a cut in the headline rate of VAT as well as a specific cut in VAT on home improvements. He also urges a reduction in national insurance contributions for firms taking on new employees.


    We are really getting to the meat of the speech here and elements which some delegates may find uncomfortable. Mr Balls says he cannot promise to reverse all the coalition's spending cuts or tax rises if Labour returns to power. He also says reforms to public sector pensions are needed to make them more affordable.


    Mr Balls says a future Labour government will put in place tough rules to ensure financial discipline in government spending. These will be independently monitored, he adds.


    Mr Balls calls for greater support for business, including a national investment bank for small firms.


    Mr Balls is coming to an end. He tells supporters Labour "must win" the big economic arguments and "show there is an alternative and a better way".


    Not surprisingly, Mr Balls get a warm round of applause in the conference hall. The BBC's Norman Smith says the speech included new proposals on job creation and VAT as well as familiar arguments on the economy.


    In his first post-speech interview, Ed Balls is being grilled by Andrew Neill on the BBC's Daily Politics. He says a future Labour government would keep the Office for Budget Responsibility to oversee its new "fiscal rules". He also says the UK's publicly owned bank shares should only be sold when they will generate a profit.


    Mr Balls acknowledges that Labour's poll ratings on the economy are not as strong as he would like but he tells Daily Politics they can be "turned around". To do this, he says the party must show it has a credible alternative to the government's approach.


    Lord Kinnock warns against repeated apologies for past mistakes. He tells BBC Radio 4's World at One that "yesterday is yesterday" and people are more concerned about how to solve current problems.


    BBC political editor Nick Robinson says the shadow chancellor's plan is "quite cautious", with only the VAT cut likely to be hugely expensive. The Institute for Fiscal Studies' Carl Emmerson says this measure would cost \u00a312bn a year and Mr Balls would have to convince markets that it was temporary, he adds.


    Smacker time: Ed Balls puckers up for a congratulatory kiss from Harriet Harman.

    Harriet Harman and Ed Balls

    Does business back Balls? John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, says: "Given that public spending cuts are vital to eradicating the deficit and protecting our triple-A credit rating, it is right that Ed Balls commits to new fiscal rules. Labour has not got this right in the past." He adds: "If affordable, some of Mr Balls' proposals for stimulating growth are worth considering, but they must pass the affordability test. In my view, a VAT cut is not affordable."


    As Labour delegates enjoy a lengthy lunch break in an unseasonably warm Liverpool, what do we have to look forward to when conference resumes at 1415 BST? The main item is a debate on "prosperity and work", with shadow business secretary John Denham and shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle taking part.


    For those who missed it this morning, you can listen back to Ed Balls' speech here.


    Ed Miliband congratulates 16-year-old Rory Weal on his speech.

    Ed Miliband and Rory Weal

    Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone tells the BBC that he made his first speech at a Labour conference - to about 45 people - as a 23-year-old. "I couldn't have done what [16-year-old] Rory [Weal] did at that age," he adds.


    John Denham is talking about Labour's attitude to business. He says his party will cheer self-made millionaires "every step of the way" but criticise executives rewarded for failure.


    The former head of the National Consumer Council, Ed Mayo, has been asked to lead a Labour review into the prices charged by energy and transport firms, Mr Denham reveals. Pricing information is too complex and people are being "ripped off" when their incomes are being squeezed. "This has got to stop," the shadow business secretary says.


    John Denham finishes and shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle is next on stage. She starts with a dig at the coalition's transport department, headed by Conservative Philip Hammond and Lib Dem Norman Baker. Referring to a planned review of road signs, she jokes that the only signs which will not be abolished will be "U-turn here", "no-left turn" and "give way".


    The BBC's Brian Wheeler reports: I spotted MP Chris Bryant buying a signed copy of fellow MP Tom Harris's new book. But only after he checked whether he was in it. "You're on page 42," Mr Harris reassured him. The modestly titled tome, Why I'm Right... And Everyone Else is Wrong, contains the best of Mr Harris's opinionated, and now sadly discontinued, blog. Why the title? "It's what all political memoirs would be called if their authors were being honest," Mr Harris replied.

    Tom Harris

    Back in the hall, Maria Eagle argues the current rail franchise system is not "fit for purpose". She suggests Labour will crack down on excessive pay among train company bosses and strive to get better value for money from the taxpayer's \u00a34bn annual investment in the railways.


    Ms Eagle pledges her support for high-speed rail but says it must extend beyond the Midlands so that communities in the north of England benefit. She also says Transport for London, rather than Mr Hammond, should oversee the procurement process for new Crossrail rolling stock. This follows controversy over the decision to award a similar contract to a German-based firm rather than Derby trainmaker Bombardier.


    Delegates are about to debate a motion on jobs and public services. But before they do, there is an intervention from the floor. Dave Allen, from the Unite union, criticises what he says was the "appalling" arrangements for delegates with disabilities getting into the conference venue this morning. He says entrances set aside for those with disabilities were being used by other people, which was "unacceptable".


    This debate is the moment when union leaders get to have their say on the conference floor about public services and potential strike action. It could prove a flashpoint.


    Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, does not disappoint on that front. Talking about the planned pensions strike on 30 November, he says workers are not "militants" but cannot sit on the sidelines when their livelihoods are under threat. "Sometimes you have to remind people what you are worth," he says.


    The BBC's Victoria King reports: Fighting talk from Peter Hain at an NASUWT fringe meeting this lunchtime. On the subject of the tuition fees protests last year - which of course turned somewhat ugly - the shadow Welsh secretary said: "Personally I was delighted when they besieged Westminster. I remember doing that sort of thing myself 40 years ago."


    As the debating continues, Dave Prentis issues a direct challenge to Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has made it clear he is opposed to strike ballots when pension talks are still going on. If his members back the action, Mr Prentis says "he expects the support of this party and its leadership". Loud cheers from the audience when he says that.


    BBC South East's political editor, Louise Stewart, reports: Disquiet at conference as men now having to share ladies' loos after male toilets declared out of order.


    True colours: Rhiannon Lowton was among the young delegates addressing the conference earlier.

    Rhiannon Lowton

    The BBC's Victoria King reports: In the spirit of austerity, there are two fringe meetings to one marquee here - each divided by a canvas "fence". That led to something of a war of words - over volume levels, not content - between union leaders on one side at the NASUWT event, and tales of phone hacking and "kiss and tells" on the other at a press and privacy debate. As he fought to make himself heard, John Rimmer, NASUWT president, said witheringly: "I think this shows us how coalition doesn't work."

    Harriet Harman

    Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, tweets: Meeting with Johann Lamont MSP at #lab11 about taking Labour forward in Scotland

    Matthew Kelcher

    tweets: Great speeches from a knowledgeable panel at the Labour Friends of Palestine fringe #lab2011


    Gerry Doherty, from the transport union TSSA, poses the question whether Ed Miliband "gets it" over the future of the railways. His views are clear, however. He tells delegates Labour should take the entire industry back into public ownership.

    BBC's Tim Reid

    tweets: Gerry Doherty from TSSA claims "one day" the railway industry will be back in public ownership. Get's cheers from delegates #lab11


    Our own queen of the conference scene, the BBC's Victoria King, has been asking delegates what they really think about Ed Miliband's leadership. Here are the results of her endeavours.

    BBC World Have Your Say

    tweets: Susan Nash, chair of Young Labour, on why the rich should pay more tax | Discussing it on #WHYS GMT1700 #Lab2011 #lab11


    It is Liam Byrne's turn to address conference. The shadow work and pensions secretary says only 66 jobs are being created every day. At that rate, he says it will take 17 years for unemployment to return to levels seen before the 2008 financial crisis.


    Shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint, addressing a fringe same meeting, went further than many opponents of the controversial boundary changes, describing them as "Tory gerrymandering". But she didn't entirely spare her own party from criticism, saying it had been too afraid of talking about "efficiency and saving money". These words - and in general, "good value for money" - should not just be the preserve of the Conservatives, she insisted.


    Liam Byrne compares the coalition's response to rising unemployment to that of US President Barack Obama - unfavourably of course. The Conservatives are "indifferent" to people's struggles, he suggests, while the Liberal Democrats are "ineffectual".


    Labour believes those who can work should work, Mr Byrne says, and that a "lifetime on welfare" must not be allowed. But he says the government's work programme is wholly inadequate.


    What's on your mind? A Labour member uses his hat to make his feelings known.

    Labour member

    Mr Byrne now attacks what he says is the "disgraceful spectacle" of people recovering for cancer being sent letters warning them they may lose their benefit if they are unwilling to consider a return to work.


    There was a big cheer for shadow transport minister John Woodcock at a Progress event. His crowd-pleaser? When he accused the government of having a 1980s feel about it, but said the way to counter that was not to be a 1980s Labour Party. "There's only one winner in that scenario," he said.


    Winding up his speech, Mr Byrne says the public expects Labour to be "bold" and "on their side".


    Remarkably sure of his romantic history, a Labour delegate makes great play of witholding his affections from the "enemy".

    Labour member

    Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray says Scotland is "big enough, smart enough and rich enough in talent" to prosper as part of the Union.


    Mr Gray urges members not to "underestimate" the task Labour faces in regaining support in Scotland. The party will rebuild and fight back, he says, ending his speech.


    That's the main business of the day over in Liverpool. Delegates will now "adjourn to policy seminars", we are told.


    Asked for her reaction to Ed Balls' speech, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith tells the BBC he has "begun to set out an approach to economic policy". But she points out that the shadow chancellor was addressing his own supporters and now had to take his message to the public.


    That's it for our live coverage of the second day of the conference where the main turn of the day - not forgetting 16-year old delegate Rory Weal of course - was undoubtedly Ed Balls. Tomorrow he has to give up the limelight to Ed Miliband who will make his second conference speech as Labour leader. Please join us then.


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