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!