Regular readers over the years will know how much I used to try to avoid political conferences. I think I have spent less than a couple of hours of my life sitting inside a conference hall. However, the real business of a conference takes place in the fringe meetings, the little huddles of people gathering over coffee and the late night bar chatter.
I arrived in Brighton last night to come and talk about sport policy to as many MPs, advisors and delegates as possible. Whilst it is early in the electoral cycle its important that HMG official opposition is holding the government to account and as Labour is stil so large in local government that the benefits of sport policy are well known & understood. How the oppostion responds to the sports consultation will determine if we can get some cross party consensus for example.
I have only been ‘live’ in Brighton since 8.30 and have had my first 10-15 conversations. I always forget how many friends I have inside the Party and how much fun they are. There are many things I don’t miss about Westminster but having such a great bunch of colleagues around is something I really DO miss.
I will try to update and collect the mood of Brighton. The conversations so far have reflected my own postings over the last few weeks… We are now in totally Unchartered waters politically. We have a leader who is like a fish out of water as I had it described today. All that experience of giving off the cuff talks/ speeches to rallies is not the same as leading a political movement. There are most MPs who feel they are going to wake up soon from this nightmare / dream! They understand the size of the Corbyn mandate from a new mass party of ‘supporters’ but know, like me, that the electoral mountain we needed to climb has just became bigger in 2020.
We all know people who are equally excited by the prospect of something very different and the chance to have what they call a ‘genuine Labour Party’ back. Yet despite these poles of difference the conference behaviour seems to be carrying on as normal. However, this is a conference a million miles away from the heady days of the mid to late 90s and mid 00s when we were in power and people felt we mattered. I am guessing but many people and organisations booked to come to conference thinking the Party might be in government. We will have to see how opposition goes when parliament returns but I am guessing lobbyist, campaigns will not feel they *need* to be here in such numbers next year and it already feels flat.. You can get a table for coffee anywhere!
One hour down -15 conversations in. I will now dive fully into conference and the fringes… Let’s see what emerges.