Following a turbulent year since their last conference, Labour aimed to quell the chaos in Brighton and establish a clear policy directive.
However, with regards to student policy, there were a few surprises as to what this directive was.
Building on a long-term promise to scrap tuition fees and address the “Tories’ student debt”, the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, acknowledged that “some of the heaviest debt burden has fallen on young people.”
McDonnell said that the Tories have “tripled tuition fees and allow[ed] the Student Loans Company to hike up interest rates.” As a result, “young people are now leaving university with £57,000 worth of debt.”
The Shadow Chancellor suggested that it was imperative to “act now”, declaring that a delaying adressing the situation until 2022 would treble the cost of clearing the debt, which he claims would already cost an unsustainable sum of £10 billion by 2050.
McDonnell added that “as a result of Labour pressure, the Government is now being forced into discussing reducing interest rates or raising repayment thresholds.”
This follows after a wave of speculation that the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, was both considering raising the income threshold, currently at £21,000 per year, at which graduates must begin to repay their student debt, and slashing tuition fees to £7,500 per annum.
Indeed, whilst it is unclear as to what the Chancellor’s exact proposals will be, McDonnell ensured that “if they bring forward effective proposals, we will support them.”
In regards to the remainder of the conference, there were too perhaps few surprises as to what Jeremy Corbyn announced as fitting with his vision of a post-Brexit Britain. Following suit with their mantra, “for the many, not the few”, McDonnell confirmed that Labour would vow to nationalise the railways, water, energy and the Royal Mail.
McDonnell made clear that, “ours will only become an economy for the many if we significantly broaden ownership.”
Significantly, the Shadow Chancellor also ensured that Labour had full control of a situation whereby Corbyn’s entrance into office could result in a fall of the pound as a result of an attack by opponents, triggering capital flight.
McDonnell guaranteed this hypothetical was covered, promising, “we’ve got a scenario plan for that” in a bid to solidify the party’s image as calm and capable after what has been perhaps a volatile year for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.