The day after the night before: I had no real plans for today except to go to the Conference Centre and be there at the Q and A session. Having become familiar with the layout if the Conference Centre, I gave myself three minutes to get to the How to plan a successful campaign (or some such title) I arrived to find it had been relocated, and not just to another room but to another building. My sense of humour was tested when they told me it was now going to be held in the Osborne Room. Insult to injury.
but I’m so glad I went. Ian McNicol was chairing the group and introduced us to Arnie Graf This laconic American spoke about the need for campaigners to properly engage with people and to hear their story, before asking them for support. So we set about doing an interactive exercise finding out about a stranger in the room. This point was to illustrate the importance of building up a relationship with each potential supporter. Arnie told the story of how the good Labour council in Preston set about reclaiming the Council seats that had turned away after the 2010 elections. So he urged door knocking and street stalls starting with two or three and rather like a pyramid scheme, involving those two or three to go forth.
The plan is so obvious! Just recruiting during up to an election leaves the public feeling like pawns in a Westminster game.
Then the session morphed into the NEW campaign on Freezing Energy Bills and on the Labour site you can calculate where we are encouraged to show people how you can save. But the important thing is to get people talking: down the pub ( volunteers?) at the school gate? Church? Basically we should be out there in the community finding out what are people’s local concerns and then talk about National Policy issues like Energy costs. Most empirical research shows that when presented with a survey of issues that are of concern, 100%returns show cost of living boxes ticked.
Anyway, I am definitely on for the street stall to put some of Arnie’s ideas into practice.
Well done Ed! What a storming speech The wait outside the Conference doors was worth it and my goodness we did wait … Outside lined up on the stairs. Although I have been occupying the same numbered seat, and as a delegate, was told that it would still be mine for the leaders speech, we were also warned that were we not in it by 2-00 pm it would be given to a visitor. So the queue to beat the clock began at noon, with delegates picnicking precariously.
Once inside the Hall it was star gazing time again: Eddie Izard, Steve Coogan, The Kinnocks, Ken Livingstone my new best friends Dennis Skinner and his wife and of course the fabulous shadow cabinet. I recognised many of the faces that were ranged behind Ed, some of them delegates who had spoken in debates earlier in the week.
I know that standing ovations are traditional at political rallies but the policies were genuinely surprising and overwhelmingly approved. Wrap around child care ; the abolition of the ‘ bedroom Tax’ Health and Welfare reform – you now know the list that we will take to the doorstep.
But the big surprise was the Energy Freeze. More of that later.
Off next to the Huff Post debate with Tessa Jowell, Medi Hussain, Sadiq Khan Ken Livingstone Isabel Hardman and Owen Jones. The title of the seminar was ‘ Ed or Dead’ and the journalists were asked how they rated the speech. they gave it fulsome praise. All the panelist were on good form.HuffingtonPost
But remember the main aim of conference for some was where to get food. My fellow NW delegates fancied the NUT fish and chip supper but it was ticket only and we didn’t have one. So we ended up peeping into rooms where seminars had finished and there were left-overs. I found myself with a plate of sandwiches liberated from the Friends of Israel. I felt a bit bad, having signed petitions at The friends of Palestine and I was seated outside the reception for the Arab League: a sort of gastronomic Middle East Bingo!
My new best friends are the young people ‘manning’ the exhibition stall promoting the Nuclear industry. (NIA) Somewhat controversially I have been supporting them and visit daily, but dear reader, they have a system of lockers where you can charge your mobile phone safely and securely- you lock the door, pocket the key and off you go. I don’t think I am directly connected to Sellafield.
Getting into conversation with one of them, it transpires that he is taking his girlfriend for a weekend to Shrigley Hall. She is looking forward to the Spa, but I was able to tell this enthusiastic golfer that he could indulge his hobby also. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned that they do wedding there and she may be casing the joint. The exhibitors are not necessarily Labour supporters, (though I am doing my best with the Nuclear boys) In my Hotel are some delegates from Ealing and they have discovered one of their Tory Councillors has sneaked in under the Radar and is on one of the exhibition stalls. It’s thought it might be something to do with opticians ( Tory, therefore myopic? Geddit?)
As the conference proceeds, I bump into people I have met previously, sat next to or asked advice from. It’s wonderful to hang out with the like-minded and there is a great feeling of community and a will to do something about the many injustices in the land. Many of the delegates and prospective Labour Parliamentary Candidates seem so young -similarly the police, so it’s not surprising to find detailed talk of last nights Karaoke, or tonight’s Disco going on. I was back at the Hotel watching Damian McBride in confessional mode, on Newsnight. Today is sunny and very warm. It seems a shame to be indoors, but the future Prime Minister is speaking later and I don’t want to miss that!
…And so the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls who has such a hard time with the media pushing the notion that the Economy is somehow safe in the hands of Geirge Osborne. It may well be for millionaires but not for the millions. (sorry Ed, a shameless steal of your words. His comprehensive speech was received with great approval and a lengthy standing ovation. Rightly so. For a full transcript try this link.
I am in the FUjitsu Room (plug) at the Conference Centre, where we are offered free wifi, free charging and free computer access, so I write and publish my blog: a sign of how digital political life has become.THere are TV screens where I can keep an eye on what,s going on in the Hall. Before settling down here, I went for a wander around the various stalls, starting at NAS/UWT my old Union. Although I have always tried to keep up with what has been going on in the teaching profession, and in Eduction generally: mainly through the media, colleagues still teaching, and of course my own experience through grandchildren, I hadn’t realised quite how dire the teaching contracts had become. Of course I am sympathetic to my friends pay and conditions and pension rights, but the impact that this will have on the schools had not really hit home. We are seeing the fragmentation of Education Nationally and of course locally. Very soon Macclesfield will have only one Local AUthority school. Consider the impact when pupils from outside the area take up the places and the Local AUthority can not provide enough schools. Not likely? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Soon I have a date with Alastair CAmpbell on WAterstones stall 73 where he will be signing his book. THats where the digital age lets me down: he can’t sign my copy as its on my kindle.
Off now to hear Douglas Alexander in the Hall.
Apart from star gazing, the aim of conference for some people seems to be where to find the best reception. By that, I mean free food and drink: the best so far being the SCottish group on SUnday evening. Delicious canapés and free flow alcohol. I can only assume that the EAst Midlands reception was a three course sit down meal, and we were stopped at their door.
Kudos to the NUT who were offering apples for the teachers, so that sustained me for a while during the day.
I had been ‘warned’ to expect freebies thrust upon delegates by way of leaflets and booklets, but when I came across freebie canvas bags, it just opened the door to the expansion of my collection of documentation. I am now into serious excess baggage mode.
Conference Sunday offered an early morning Church event, but I sat it out in the Hall all day.
To get into conference you pass through security, and POlice are in evidence all round the various venues but I was a bit surprised to find G4S manning the gates. They don’t have the best reputation of keeping their workforce or indeed their ‘prisoners’ under control. Maybe theres to be no escaping Brighton.
I turned down the chance to go food hunting and gathering and took the advice of my landlord to visit Brighton’s Lanes: where all the restaurants and wine bars are situated. Having paid 3.50 for a cup of tea in a paper cup in the Grand, I wasn’t hopeful of getting away without a second mortgage for my dinner. But lovely food in comfortable surroundings can be had. 10.00 later I was fed and watered and on my way back to my Hotel. On the way through the lanes, I happened upon aa blue light (yes a blue light) which was a charging post for electric car/ vehicle. Clearly the Caroline Lucas effect!
And so to Monday….
What an incredible day! At noon Yvette Cooper gave the 1000 #labwomen13 a clear and concise summary of Labours achievements of which she and we were proud. Sadly of course many of these noble achievements have been unpicked by the current Toryslash and burn politics.
Then we were invited to form two orderly queues at the microphone to make points or ask questions and explore what our policy priorities should be for women facing a cost of living crisis.
There was no hanging back. After lunch Bonnie Greer chaired a session where Melissa Benn and Caroline Criado-Perez discussed how sexism manifests itself in the everyday lives of women and how it should be challenged. My Grandmother would have been familiar with many of the incidents related over the next open mic session. Some men just don’t get it, do they? It was inevitable that Godfrey ‘Bloomers’ Bloom was mentioned-a pity really to give him space in this article, but for many women there today, he epitomised their experiences in the work place.
And so like our heroines before us who blazed this particular trail, the #labwomen13 resolved to continue the fight to establish a secure and lasting equal place for women in Society.
I don’t know what I was expecting from this day, but I was impressed by the warmth, friendship and commitment and quite surprised ( why?) at the age profile. So many feisty young bright intelligent women!
My thanks go to Michelle and the fourteen women from Stevenage, who swept me along with them and are now my new best friends. I also bumped into two women from Erewash ( Nottingham?)who through mutual friends Les and Nancy White, were looking out for me. Catherine Atkinson is the Constituency Labour candidate and will make an excellent MP.
All in all a terrific and inspirational day.
is safe in the hands of all these women.