One of my photos

Labour conference – day four

September 30th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

A sign on the footbridge between the Grand and the Hilton at Labour's conference.

A sign on the footbridge between the Grand and the Hilton at Labour's conference.

Following Tuesday’s over-long day, when I was in Brighton from 0800 to 2300 I took it a bit easier today and caught a later train.  Actually a bit later than intended: Jayne was a bit unwell and waiting for the doctor to call back so no lift to the station – I had to walk the mile to the shops and wait for a bus instead, but I did get to Brighton before lunchtime.I didn’t actuall catch any of the morning sessions at the conference proper, but was in good time for a fringe event held by the European Parliamentary Labour Party about why workers in Europe are turning to the right. I went because I was interested in the topic, but it turned out to be the holy grail for anyone seeking decent food.

The event had tables instead of rows of chairs, so I was able to sit down with a plate of sandwiches, lamb samosa , deep-fried camembert and breaded chicken things, washed down with orange juice and followed by a fruit tart and decent coffee.  Result!  It was especially good to be able to enjoy it without trying to balance a plate on my lap while worrying about a glass on the floor.

In fact I had rather more time to enjoy it than I wanted.  The event kicked off really late because some speakers were held up by a vote in the main hall, but the time passsed pleasantly in conversation with a chap visiting from Wimbledon.  Amongst other things he told me about his octogenerian mother who called him yesterday to say that after a lifetime of voting Tory she would be voting for Gordon Brown.  Actually it was a bit stronger than that: she said she was determined to cling on long enough to be around to vote Labour for the first time ever next year.

I have heard a few similar bits of anectodal evidence that we are still picking up voters despite what the Sun might think.

The meeting eventually started and it was interesting enough, but not entirely on-topic.  A lot was said about the BNP, the ‘no platform’ policy and so on, but it was mostly about Britain and not Europe.  It started well with the man from the GMB keeping it European, but after that it was Emily Thornberry talking about her experiences in Islington and Searchlight talking about the BNP.  Glenis Wilmot did try and get it back to Europe, as you would expect.

I hoped that somebody would talk more about the need to encourage and foster solidarity between workers in different European countries, although the GMB man, whose name escapes me did touch on that.

I ducked out a little bit early, during the questions at the end, and went back over to the Brighton Centre to get my photo taken with Harriet Harman, and then went into the main hall to see what was going on.

The two Eds - Balls and Izzard - at conference in Brighton

The two Eds - Balls and Izzard - at conference in Brighton

I was just in time for the education debate, which I really enjoyed.

Ed Balls was joined by Eddie Izzard who presented some awards to school workers for their dedicastion to their jobs.  It was great to see front-line public service workers getting some public recognition.  Possibly they might have preferred the 6-figure bonuses that bankers get for doing a fraction of what they do, but I’m sure they appreciated the gesture.

Before each award there was a brief film, where the person who nominated them explained why, and there were some amazing stories, like the teaching assistant always going that little bit further than her job description, taking groups of students off forsite for a course they were interested in, in her own time, and never claiming for overtime.

The sad thing is that this is not unusual.  I know that Jayne puts in a lot of extra hours at her school, and many of her collegues do too. Going beyond the terms of their contract is actually the norm for most people working in schools and the shame is that only a few could be singled out.  Maybe we should extend Armed Forces day to include all public servants and make it a public holiday?  The trouble is that half of them would spend the extra day off doing preparation for lessons or supervising some extra-curricular school trip or something and defeat the purpose.

At the end of the session, Ed Balls made his speech, which was very strange.  He started off very well until at one point there was some spontaneous applause where he had not anticipated it.  Speaking without notes or autocue, Balls struggled a little to remember where he had got up to and had to repeat the last few words to get back on track.  After that he never really got back into it, speaking more hesitantly.  It was real edge-of-the-seat stuff: at each slightly-longer-than-it-should-have-been pause I wondered if he had forgotten the next line and was willing him to get it right.

Or maybe that was just my perception, remembering that it is like when you are in a play and have a long speech to do and suddenly go blank.  I may be over-sensitive to that sort of thing.  Certainly the content was spot-on.  He said some marvellous things about education workers and public servants in general.

Somebody who really did have trouble speaking was a young chap called Samuel.  He had been through a sports training scheme, during which he not only improved his sporting ability but was encouraged to participate in doing coaching himself and is now returning to education to further that ambition.  He was understandably overwhelmed by the size of the hall, number of people and cameras and the crowd loved him for it, egging him on and discreetly wiping away the odd tear as he explained his experience and thanked Charlton Athletic for the chances he has had.

Thanks Samuel for reminding us so effectively of the hundreds of human faces behind all the talk of various government schemes.

Another enjoyable speaker was the candidate for Reading West, who made me laugh lots.  He ended with a rallying call for the next election, telling the audience to clap, cheer and stamp your feet “because we are going to win, and I am going to be brilliant.”   For sheer cheek it can’t be beaten.

As I was leaving the hall, there was one last moment to savour during the emergency motion on Post Office pensions.  Billy Hayes had made a storming speech and then Tony Woodley, one fo the joint bosses of my union, got up to speak.  He held up a copy of today’s Sun and told us what he thought of it before flamboyantly tearing it up to massive applause.

I rounded off the day by having a coffee with the Crawley contingent of Laura Moffatt MP and her family and staff, joined temporarily by local councillor (and PPC for Reigate) Rob Hull before getting an earlier train home than I have all week.

Arrived at the station a 5 minutes before a train was due to leave, but my luck ran out when I just missed a No 20 bus at Three Bridges and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one, by which time I had walked halfway to town anyway.

This year's hot fashion tip

This year's hot fashion tip

During the day I also bought myself a birthday present from Mother.  She had sent me a card with a cheque in it.

I would normally get myself some book or CD that I have had my eye on and then tell her what she got me, but right now I am trying to reduce the CD collection (or rather pack it up and put it in the loft) and have half a dozen books in the to-be-read pile so I used part of the money to buy this rather fetching t-shirt from the Labour stand.

As an added bonus, when I asked what sizes they had the chap said that they had aall sizes, adding “what do you want? A medium?”

Bless him.  Normally when I buy clothes the size tag has more Xs on it than a pools coupon.

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