One of my photos

Labour conference – day three

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

Day three started far earlier than I would have liked.  In fact I was in the Hilton Metropole at a fringe event at a time when many delegates and visitors staying in Brighton itself had probably not got up.  I was there for the British Humanist Society’s second annual ‘no prayer’ breakfst,For various reasons I had not got much sleep – somewhere between two and three hours – so was not feeling too brilliant.  In fact I dozed off on the train down and some kindly person woke me at Brighton station.  Brought back commuting memories, when I was often woken up at London terminus stations, sometimes even the one I was meant to be going to.

I thought to myself  “what an ungodly hour to hold a meeting” and then was immediately struck by the appropriateness of the phrase and repeated it at every opportunity.  Andrew from Wongablog was there taking photos for them, and here I will take the opportunity to publicise what a nice bloke he is – he not only had a birthday gift for me and a card, but the card was a ‘Happy 30th Birthday” card.

It may have been a bad time of day for a meeting, but they had some decent coffee which perked me up a bit, and some very sugar-heavy pastries which helped too.  No way was I going to eat enough pastries to fill me up, but the sugar rush gave me a bit of much-needed energy.

After the event I went for a little walk around Brighton, ending up just down the road from the Komedia, where I found a little cafe willing to provide me with a proper breakfast or bacon, egg, tomato and toast.  This was my little birthday treat for myself.

Brighton Pavilion

Brighton Pavilion

If I was an official delegate I would have been back in the conference centre for briefings, votes and paying careful attention to all the debates.  Being ex officio means I can dip in and out and in this case I took my time getting back, going via the Pavilion and the seafront.

I got to the Brighton Centre in time to catch some of the debates, and enjoyed Jack Straw’s contribution more than I expected to, but enjoyed John Denham’s even more.

I was confused by the dubious housing Q&A session though.  There was a wide array of participants on the stage who all introduced themselves with a few words, leaving time for only a few questions from the floor but no time for answers, except for a generic speech from John Healey.

I am not saying this was without any merit or interest, but no way was it a question and answer session.

At lunchtime I went over the bridge and had a coffee and gossip with Bish and was unfeasibly chuffed to see Eddie Izzard there, marching through the room as if on a mission.

Before long it was time for the main event: the leader’s speech.  Getting into the hall was easy but finding a seat was more of a problem.  I ended up in a section right next to the media contingent, and with a few of them on our side of the aisle, so the atmosphere there was a bit muted.  Obviously the media are not going to be clapping, cheering and giving standing ovations along with everybody else.

Along with most members I was pleased with the speech, if not totally satisfied.  It ticked many boxes, even if it did miss out the box marked “scrap Trident” and in some areas did not go far enough.  It will do for me though.  Even where it didn’t go far enough I know it went further than the Tories would contemplate.

I’m a bit suspicious of the bit about ASBOs and support units for teenage mothers.  it reeks of pandering to the Daily Mail, but there were not enough details to know if it was entirely bad.  Support centres could be good if they were truly supportive and not like some sort of punishment for getting pregnant.

Lots of good things though:  re-instating the link between pensions and earnings (again no details, but in principle a good thing), getting rid of the House of Lords (including the Bishops presumably) and making the second chamber wholly elected, scrapping compulsory ID cards, national care service, protecting investment in schools, reaching the .7% of GDP target for overseas aid, and the getting an agreement on climate change at Copenhagen… lots of things that will make it a manifesto I will be a lot happier going out on the streets to promote.

The referendum on alternative votes is an interesting one.  Not the move towards proportionality that I personally favour and the rest of the party hates, but at least it is opening up the idea of electoral reform.

Giving constituencies a way to recall MPs is also an interesting idea.  Again there was no detail, but it sounds like a good move even if the way it was phrased hinted at all sorts of conditions and caveats being involved.  We will have to wait and see what the full proposal is.

I think the whole speech was well-received, as was Sarah Brown’s introduction.  Much more dignified than the cringeworthy introduction Alan Johnson got from Fiona Phillips.  That is surely destined to be a minor YouTube classic.

I have never understood why the leader’s speech is on day three.  It has such a focus on it that the rest fo the conference has a sense of anti-climax to it.  Each year as I watch bits on the conference on TV I wonder why the main event is in the middle rather than nearer the end.  Just one of many things about the conference that confuse me.

After the big speech I wandered teh exhibitions again, had a chat with the Computing for Labour people and generally enjoyed not being a delegate.  They were all still in the hall for delegate-only policy debates or something.

As the light faded, I took a stroll along the seafront and through the Lanes, had some chips on the seafront, and then headed for the pub to meet with some Labour blogger chums.  Wongablog Andrew was there, as was Bloggers4Labour Andrew, Jonathan from Assistant and his mate, and Pootergeek.  Bish and his colleague joined us and there were more downstairs, including Tom Hamilton.

Had a very good time catching up and chewing the fat, but left while the party was in full swing so I could get a train home.  I had a whole pint of lager top and a coke… boy do I know how to celebrate a birthday!

Got home to find some presents waiting for me.  Jayne gave me some filters for my camera.  I know I will be very tempted to go out on the beach tomorrow and experiment with my circular polarizing filters instead of hanging around the conference hall.

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