Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Labour Conference round-up

I'm on the train back from Manchester and having failed several times to download the parliamentary intranet so I can look at my emails have resorted to blogging instead. And I know I said last night's was the last blog, but they have power-points on Virgin trains so I can plug in my laptop (which has a battery life shorter than the average goldfish's memory). Can't even get a mobile phone signal most of the time on FGW.

I think one of the good things about Conference this year was that I spent quite a bit of time with people who'd never been to Conference before and were therefore a bit wide-eyed about the whole thing. For example, the fact that everyone, no matter how important - except of course the PM - has to join the same queue as Conference delegates and visitors to get into the secure zone. There's always at least one reported 'Don't you know who I am?' incident each year, when some VIP forgets their pass. Interestingly, the media have their own special fast-track entrance. Cabinet Ministers don't. So Alistair Darling had to endure a good ten minutes of being personally addressed by the mad vegetarian on a soapbox outside the Conference barrier, booming "Are you prepared to give up meat to Save the Planet, Chancellor?" John Hutton was a few places behind in the queue, but very cleverly made sure he kept his back to him, so went unnoticed. Or perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.

The other good thing about Conference is the reminder it gives of just how many good friends I have within the Labour Party. At one point I found myself having a coffee with (a) someone I met at someone's hen night, who is at the NLGN and wants to do some work with me on child poverty, (b) someone I used to work with at Britain in Europe and (c) someone I met when she was a parliamentary researcher for a Government Minister. All people who are very much involved in politics, and all know each other, even though I met them all separately - and people I will probably (I hope) still be having coffees with at Conference in five, ten, twenty years time. Some of the people I spent time with are in their twenties and will probably (I hope) be running the country in 20 or 30 years time, when I'm the old lady being wheeled out at the closing session to make delegates cry. Some are much older than me, or from completely different backgrounds, or different parts of the country. But we all have one thing in common - Labour values are, as Gordon said in his speech, in our DNA. (Sorry, getting a bit sentimental there - Conference does that to you).

Didn't get into today's Conference session till gone midday, (bed at 4.45am, up at 9.30 to pack and potter). Made it just in time for Alan Johnson introducing a Happy Birthday NHS special. Our delegate from Bristol East, Ang, was roped into sitting up on the stage along with other NHS employees - she's a nurse, and it's her birthday today too. It is traditional on the last day on Conference to wheel out a very old person who will talk about Nye Bevan and the 1945 Government and make people cry (usually followed by a very young person who will revive everyone's faith that the future of British politics is in safe hands). Today we got a whole host of tearjerkers. The very old lady was the youngest person and the only woman to be appointed to the first ever NHS Board by Nye Bevan. Then there was the first ever baby born in an NHS hospital, at one minute past midnight on July 5th 1948; the nurses kept telling her Mum to 'hold on in there for another minute Edna'. Then there was a student nurse, and then a young man who was diagnosed with tongue cancer last year but has now been given the all-clear. Turns out he is actually an intern based in my London office, though not working for me but the MP I share space with. Kevin, our fearless firefighter from St George, had tears in his eyes; he's a big softy really, although his verdict yesterday on Gordon's speech was succinct: "He kicked the knockers up their arses!" I did try to get him to repeat that on camera, but he went into candidate mode and was far more polite.

Final act of the day was Harriet, who was actually very good. I might sound a little surprised at that. When she became Deputy Leader I couldn't really see her doing the end of Conference Tory bashing/ troops rallying cry, which has traditionally been the domain of rather more pugnacious characters like Prezza and John Reid. But she has a nice line on Cameron, telling delegates: "He's the kind of man your mother warned you about. He'll woo you with promises, but after he's had his wicked way with you at the ballot box, you'll never hear from him again!" There was also a funny moment for delegates sitting in my block when Harriet mocked the hubris of the 'future Tory Cabinet' pictured in the pages of, she sneered, Tatler. At which point we all pointed the finger at the moustachioed bloke sitting a row in front of us reading - you've guessed it: Tatler. He was engrossed in looking at pictures of posh girls in posh frocks, from what I could gather, and I don't think he even heard her mention it. On the topic of the top Tory totty in Tatler (which is quite a tongue-twister), guess who turned up at Labour Conference with a press pass? None other than Charlotte Leslie. She gets abso-bloody-lutely everywhere, that woman. We thought she might be planning her defection, but don't think she'd want to slum it with us lot.

Conference closed with a quick rendition of the Red Flag (because most people these days don't even know the words to one verse, let alone the rest of it) and Jerusalem, and a mad race to the station. Made the train with seconds to spare, to find the First Ladies of Bristol politics, Dawn P and Helen H in the same carriage. We compared Conference freebies. I have a fluffy white seal from the Respect for Animals stand. Helen has a translucent pink "credit crunch" piggy-bank. Dawn came away empty-handed.

Arriving in Bristol now. No doubt the fridge will be empty, the house will be cold and the cupboards will be bare when I get home. Today's Conference diet has been fairly typical: iced decaf soya latte and a bar of dark chocolate, followed by peppermint tea and a bag of crisps on the train. I have the usual post Conference sore throat and will inevitably spend the last week of recess feeling ill (and not just because the Tories will be all over the telly). Tonight I'll be booking next year's accommodation for Conference in Brighton; we've decided the Entourage will rent out a big house or a load of apartments and all stay together. I quite like the idea of being waited on hand and foot for an entire week. The reality will probably be that I end up being Mum to lots of hungover researchers and interns, and clearing up after them.

Train now pulling into Temple Meads. Apologies for rambling. I was bored! Over and out!

17 comments:

Mike said...

"So Alistair Darling had to endure a good ten minutes of being personally addressed by the mad vegetarian on a soapbox outside the Conference barrier, booming "Are you prepared to give up meat to Save the Planet, Chancellor?" John Hutton was a few places behind in the queue, but very cleverly made sure he kept his back to him, so went unnoticed. Or perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference anyway."

I don't think dissing this guy is very clever Kerry and does you know credit. I spoke to him and at least his has ideals and is prepared to speak out for them for a better and more humane world. Unlike the scores of sharp suited New Labour careerists who were all over the place.

"The reality will probably be that I end up being Mum to lots of hungover researchers and interns, and clearing up after them."

How is that clever? It also looks very bad to many of your constituents who are from regions where such activity is not a virtue.

Mike said...

So Alistair Darling had to endure a good ten minutes of being personally addressed by the mad vegetarian on a soapbox outside the Conference barrier, booming "Are you prepared to give up meat to Save the Planet, Chancellor?" John Hutton was a few places behind in the queue, but very cleverly made sure he kept his back to him, so went unnoticed. Or perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference anyway."

I don't think dissing this guy is very clever Kerry and does you no credit. I spoke to him and at least his has ideals and is prepared to speak out for them for a better and more humane world. Unlike the scores of sharp suited New Labour careerists who were all over the place.

"The reality will probably be that I end up being Mum to lots of hungover researchers and interns, and clearing up after them."

How is that clever? It also looks very bad to many of your constituents who are from regions where such activity is not a virtue.

Mike said...

Also, its deeply insulting to call the guy on the soapbox 'mad', is that how you refer to everyone who disagrees with your New Labour views?
It is also not a way of talking about someone you expect from someone in the public eye and who makes out they are a progressive.

Northern Lights said...

Not a big fan of humour then Mike?
Or tongue-in-cheek blog posts?

Kerry said...

Mike, I assume you're a new visitor to this blog. If you had been around a bit longer you'd know I've been a vegetarian for 27 years and vegan for nearly 17. So the guy on the soapbox is not 'someone who disagrees with my New Labour views' - in fact he was saying exactly what I'd said at the two fringe meetings I'd addressed that week. I occasionally make references to 'mad vegans' as that's how we're often perceived. Whereas really we're very sensible. To people in the queue, that was 'a mad vegetarian'.

As for the hungover researchers and interns - well that's what happens at party conferences. And I don't think there's a region in the country where young people don't believe in exactly the same way. I don't drink. But I'm perfectly relaxed about other people doing so. Frankly, I think you need to chill out a bit.

Kerry said...

Oops, that should have been 'behave in exactly the same way'!

Kerry said...

Oops again. It has been pointed out to me by a vigilant member of staff that evil minds might draw the conclusion from this post that "I was bored" with the company of Bristol's First Ladies, Dawn and Helen. This is not true. They just wouldn't talk to me.

That is not true either. We weren't sitting together. And not because we didn't want to, but because the train was packed. Have I explained enough now, Orla?

The Bristol Blogger said...

Yes you have. Thanks for drawing my attention to that.

Kerry said...

You be careful - I'm an ex-lawyer. I'll sue!

Anonymous said...

ex-lawyer - have you been debarred? I thought once a ... also a ....

Kerry said...

If I'd said, I'm a lawyer, no doubt someone would have accused me of holding down two jobs. I'm a qualified lawyer, but not a practising one. There - happy?

Anonymous said...

"As for the hungover researchers and interns - well that's what happens at party conferences."

Well thats ok then, perhaps we naively thought they may be about political debate and ideals and getting some work done but they are just for no nothing politics student interns and MPs staff to get pissed at.
This is one reason are party is in such dire straights, the New Labour apparatchiks who treat the whole thing as a career ladder and no nothing about real life or connecting with people. Then they go to these conferences which are nothing more than glorified piss ups and shag fests.

It does you no credit as an MP to write such stuff on your blog and simply shows you are just another New Labour luvvie like your 'intern' friends. God how our party could do without the likes of you.

Glenn Vowles said...

'They just wouldn't talk to me.
That is not true either. We weren't sitting together. And not because we didn't want to, but because the train was packed.'

Councillor Holland was probably too busy dreaming of shopping centres. This appears to be the ultimate vision for her according to what she has said about Cabot Circus today.

Kerry said...

I thought today I'd experiment with allowing anonymous comments, as some people don't comment because they can't be bothered to sign up, but now I remember why I stopped them.

If people want to have a drink after they've spent a 12 hour day in the Conference Hall and at fringe meetings, good luck to them. And Old Labour/ trade unionists could drink those kids under the table - and do! You're also conflating New Labour with youth; how many young people signed up to support Jon Cruddas for the Deputy Leadership? Loads. The interns/ researchers I know are very bright, very principled, and totally committed to the party - and that's why I like to spend time with them. Who are you to pass judgment on them?

If there are any parliamentary researchers reading this - come on, put 'Anonymous' straight!

As for you Glenn - 4000 new jobs and the regeneration of the city centre. That's what Cabot Circus means for Bristol.

The Bristol Blogger said...

Even by my standards being threatened with legal action over something I haven't written (yet) is impressive.

You may indeed be a lawyer but I'm a loose canon with no money who's up for making a mockery of anything.

Could make for a combustible few days in the High Court ...

Kerry said...

A loose canon? You mean you're a promiscuous priest? Tell me more!

Glenn Vowles said...

'As for you Glenn - 4000 new jobs and the regeneration of the city centre. That's what Cabot Circus means for Bristol.'

Source of the 4000 figure? Will jobs in local shops throughout Bristol be lost to set against this? How sustainable will the '4000 jobs' be? How does Cabot Circus fit in with the Govts much talked up Climate Change Bill?