Monday, September 27, 2010

North West Regional Receptions at Labour Party Annual Conference

I had two real reasons for making it over to conference in Manchester this weekend. The first was to join friends at the LGBT Labour bash on Saturday night, which was massive, absolutely heaving with people and I was in very good company - did suffer for it a bit on Sunday morning though.

But the other main reason for going was to host our two NW events. We had our delegates event on Sunday lunchtime - I forgot there was going to be food along with the briefing, so I had already eaten. I must just digress and tell you about lunch. I got into the conference centre about 11.30am and was ravenous, looking for a late breakfast, so I went to the cafe area. They only had lunch type food on offer though. So I sorted myself out with something to eat and sat down with an old friend I had not seen for ages. It was still pretty quiet in the centre and then along came a big load of TV cameras with John Prescott. They were filming him visiting stands in the exhibition area. He saw me and came straight across, with cameras trailing after him. "Hello Louise, how are you. Gosh, fancy eating bangers and mash at this time of day, shouldn't it be bacon and eggs?" They immediately focused on my plate of food, I was mortified, just hope I don't appear on whatever programme he was recording for, looking sheepish!

Anyway, to get back to the regional events. The first one was to welcome our NW CLP delegates, the vast majority of whom are first time delegates, which is always exciting - for them and for us. I encouraged them to get up and speak this week during conference and keep our NW red flag flying high. And encouraged them to join in the Labour NW Conference blog - will link to this shortly when I can find it. Everyone was buzzing about being at conference, finding out where to sit (they sit within regions and alphabetically by constituency, so the Liverpool delegates will be sitting together, whilst Bootle will be sitting with Burnley and Bury for instance), how to vote, how to catch the eye of the conference chair, which of the hundreds of fringe events they might choose to go to, which contemporary motions they might like to vote to see discussed on the floor of conference. I gave a shameless plug to the Marriage Equality motion, I do hope it was chosen for debate but I doubt it somehow. I know the delegates will have a great time, wish I was still there.

And then at 5.30pm we had our NW Reception which was fabulous. Sponsored by United Utilities and ResManNW (I will have to check that, it  doesn't look right), we had a buffet and some drinks and speeches and lots and lots of guests. I had been a bit nervous that people might not come as it was not in the most glamorous of locations, being upstairs in the GMEX but I needn't have worried. I welcomed everyone and introduced Joe Anderson who kindly compered the event for us and he variously welcomed to the stage Harriet Harman, Andy Burnham, Angela Eagle, John Prescott, the sponsors and of course our new leader, Ed Miliband. We had a few short speeches and then chatted together, then a few more speeches, as people arrived, and more chat, before the main event so it was a very relaxed affair and I know people really enjoyed it, there was a lot of laughter too, if Joe ever tires of being the leader of Liverpool City Council then he could take up MCing for a living. Andy Smith, one of our staff, kept whispering in Joe's ear things like "Keep talking a bit longer, Andy Burnham is on his way" or "Shut up now, Harriet has come in". It was a real exercise in ad-libbing but he is pretty good at that to be honest!

Ed was great, he paid tribute to Andy Burnham and looked forward to working with  him in the future as a strong voice for this part of the country. The main thing that he said which stuck in my mind was that the coalition is too focussed on the deficit to the detriment of everything else. He said that in particular in 1945, the new Government did not say "Oh dear we have a massive debt (which we only finished paying off about 8 years ago incidentally - Louise), we can only concentrate on slashing public spending" but in fact they got on and introduced the NHS and the Welfare State. There was huge cheers for that. He also said that one new member had joined the LP every single minute since the leadership election results had been declared 24 hours earlier. Wow!

Everyone was very buoyant and looking forward to a great week of conference. It is hard sometimes to hold together in your mind the fact that we lost the election, that we have a horrible coalition in power now, that there are some very scary cuts coming the way of our people, and yet we still feel positive about the future and the fight to protect public services and the fight back into power.

Photo: JP entertaining the crowds while I discuss the running order...(that's my excuse anyway, I was probably telling my mate about the bangers and mash incident!)

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