Thursday, September 28, 2006

Conference in Manchester

I have now been back a day and finally got round to writing about Conference and my four days in Manchester. The time like all party conferences went by in a flash and with the late night receptions they were very long days but productive in terms of meeting people.

This year was the 11th time I've been to Party Conference, in fact since 1995 the only one I missed was last year and that was mainly due to being called up for jury service around conference and the extremely hectic period I had around that time as the Chair of Licensing in Merton. Going to Labour Party Conference for me is still an experience and they are addictive, one you've been to one you want to go again. A time will probably come when I get bored of going but that time has not come yet.

The venue Manchester has to be the best venue I have attended yet for party conference with everything located together, I like Brighton as well but getting accommodation nearby is always a nightmare and for the past few, I commuted up and down the motorway. The one relief is that the party does no longer goes to Blackpool, which is an antiquated venue that has seen better days, the Winter Gardens just about sums up Blackpool for me.

In terms of the Conference itself, I detected a realisation from many that we need to unite as a party. Sure, there was talk of the leadership but that is natural, above all the party did recognise the huge debt of gratitude we owe to Tony Blair who has been a great leader of the party and has many achievements to his name. As a leader he recognised that we had to change otherwise we would continue to remain in opposition and that we needed to modernise as a party as the world had moved on and while many of our policies were well meaning they did not connect with the aspirations of the public. This was the right approach to adopt and has been the foundation to us winning three elections in a row all with comfortable majorities. The speech he made was moving, having been in the hall for ten of his thirteen speeches to Conference, along with hearing countless others this was his best performance in my view. He will be a very hard act to follow!

On Wednesday, the speech by David Milliband on climate change brought home the stark message that we need to act now in saving the environment. This is an extremely important issue and we ignore it at our peril. The US President George Bush may not take it seriously (but then again he was from the oil industry and bankrolled by them) but it is time that the world face up to the issue; we cannot go on polluting the planet.

Bill Clinton address to Conference was one of the best moments of the week, I understand he spoke without a note for 40 minutes, so much so that the speech overrun but it did show what a great president and how much poorer the States is without him. The work is he is carrying out in the third world along with his understanding that we need to act on the environment shows his commitment to making the world a better place. The tragedy is that his successor George Bush has sent America backwards as a country and has been an unmitigated disaster on a range of issues.

From my experience of Conference, the Labour party is still strong, being a third term government is tough but we have many achievements to our name and this need to be re-iterated to a sometime sceptical public. The next year will see a leadership battle and I hope we do have a contest, as it will be good for the party. In terms of who shall succeed Tony Blair, I can honestly say that I have yet to make up mind (though I will not be voting John McDonnell in the unlikely event he did get on the ballot). In any battle it is important that the candidates for leader put forward their views, we have a vigorous debate and then after the election unite behind the elected leader and above all getting on with the task of beating David Cameron and winning a fourth term.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manchester is a fantastic city and it has been a phenomenal week

3:24 pm  

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