Saturday, March 17, 2007

Liverpool Riverside Labour Party dinner

Part two of the relentless rounds of potential Deputy Leaders visits to Liverpool

- or is that part three, I lose track really

A few months ago it was Alan Johnson speaking at a dinner in the Devonshire House Hotel, last week was the turn of Peter Hain.

Wendy and I sat with the more youthful end of the LP (present company excepted of course) and enjoyed our dinner. We managed not to win anything on the raffle or bid for anything at the auction (who wants to bid for a load of football memorabilia, signed shirts and balls anyway? what about lots for women to bid for?) but did have a good time nonetheless.

There was quite a funny moment when the chaps (I think they were all chaps) were bidding for the chance to have dinner on the Terrace in Westminster with Louise Ellman MP. The bidding started off quite sensibly but was in the £200 or £300 ball park when I sloped off to have a cigarette outside. I couldnt help but speculate that she might end up having to declare this or face charges of cash for access and brown envelopes etc. Not quite what anyone had in mind!

We were all on a big high after the Speke result - there was lots of cheering every time it was mentioned and it was mentioned a lot!

Peter was interesting, Roger Phillips gave him a hell of a build-up. I have known him for years in a fairly superficial way, we campaigned together in the valleys in 1997 and I remember him teaching me the Neath Rugby chant, but many people were hearing him for the first time.

Of course he talked a lot about Northern Ireland, being the Secretary of State and it being the day when the election results were announced for a new Northern Ireland Assembly. He also paid tribute to Mo Mowlam which was only right and proper. There was much agreement around our table that settling the Troubles is probably one of the greatest achievements of this Government and yet nobody ever mentions it.

I couldn't help pondering though whether ten years ago any of us would have believed that it would be resolved finally by a joint working arrangement between Paisley and Adams. Quite, quite remarkable.

Peter cracked a few jokes which always goes down well, but would never have been able to match Alastair Campbell who tore the place up a few years ago. But all in all it was a creditable performance.

We have Hilary Benn coming soon, I feel quite privileged to be somewhere where the big players come to court us. I understand Jon Cruddas was in town this week too.

A good night with about 200 people having a great time

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