The joy of conference

I’LL BE Manchester-bound tomorrow, and it’s shaping up to be a busy few days for me. Nevertheless, I always look forward to it and love seeing old friends and comrades.

My first experience of national (as opposed to Scottish) Labour conference was Brighton 1989, when I was Cathcart Labour Party’s delegate. This was at the height of the anti-poll tax protests and Labour was trying to establish itself as a responsible government-in-waiting. Consequently, the party was determined not to be railroaded into a position of encouraging people to refuse to pay the tax. I decided I would try to get called from the floor in the debate. Dennis Skinner was in the chair. Whether he called me because I was holding up a copy of “Labour Left Briefing” (printed on bright red paper) or not, I really don’t know. I was nervous, but exhilerated, and my three minutes went well. The then Shadow Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, took me for lunch immediately afterwards and I even featured in that evening’s Reporting Scotland. The icing on the cake was the catcalls and jeers from our resident Trots at the time.

A year later I was back at conference, this time in Blackpool, as a member of staff, having been appointed just a few weeks earlier as press officer to the party in Scotland. For three years in succession I worked on the dreaded late accreditation desk, organising passes for the surprisingly large number of journalists, photographers and broadcasting technicians who hadn’t bothered applying for credentials in time. The rest of each week was spent briefing Scottish journalists and taking my turn behind the party’s press desk – unbelievably busy. That was the hardest I’ve ever worked outside of general elections.

Then the wilderness years arrived. My involvement in the party was less for various reasons, and it wasn’t until 1999 that I was back at conference, this time as an exhibitor, working for the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG).

But I have no doubt that the best way to enjoy conference is as a back bench MP – no obligation to vote, attend debates or speak, you spend your whole time swanning round meeting people and being bought food and drink. And you can pick and choose which (if any) fringe meetings you want to attend.

As a minister at conference, everyone wants a piece of you, so to speak, and my diary this year, sadly, leaves precious little time (during the day at least) for swanning.

There will be plenty of gossip (as there always is), some arguing, a lot of fun and, perhaps, a small dry white wine with dinner.

And I’ll be blogging as often as I can.



Filed under Blogging, Department for Transport, Labour, Media

13 responses to “The joy of conference

  1. Have a lovely time and beware of the unruly mod from the South West. Manchester’s a fine town to which I drove only yesterday.

    I was reminded again of another failure by your department to take my valuable advice. As usual there was an horrendous queue on the M5 to join the M6 so we had to make a diversion. Why can’t your chaps reduce the northbound M6 to two lanes on its approach to junction 8 so that it would be four lanes trying to squeeze into three rather than five into three? Would likely improve the flow on both roads. Spect the trouble is that the Metropolitan Elite (remember them from M Howard’s days?) don’t care about us bumpkins from the west…

  2. Cracking stuff there, thanks for sharing Tom.

    There’s not many people let alone MPs who would be so quick to share their 1991 ID photos. Let’s just say, I think you’ve spread a lot of joy today.

    Enjoy the weekend…

  3. Enjoy your weekend. Say hello to Iain and feel free to pick me up one of those guides to blogging and send me it.

  4. I can do better than that (well, almost as good as). Click here to download a copy for free.

  5. John

    Tom said ” Then the wilderness years arrive”

    Looks like they’re coming your way again Tom unless…………………..

  6. The atmosphere at conference is always good; I have grave feelings about this one though.

    Lets hope people behave themselves. Now is not the time for hysterics from the floor.

  7. Zim Flyer

    It’s a shame you are not having it in Blackpool, we have lovely weather this weekend and the illuminations are cracking.

    I should really work for the Blackpool Tourism board.

  8. I’m not sure they should go to Blackpool, ever since the “Make Pot Legal” Society had their annual day out there to see the hallucinations. (orig from The Two Ronnies)

  9. Johnny Norfolk

    I hope the tractor production figures are interesting.
    Do they provide sick bags or do you take your own.
    Sorry its labour so they will be giving them away free.

    It must be a delight hearing Harman going on and on and on and on…………………………………

  10. Did you apply for your pass through your CLP, Johnny?

  11. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom. If your party stands up and just drones on and on about how good things are low unemployment etc and blames everyone else,as Harman did on Newsnight you will slip even further in the polls. ( if that is possible). What the country needs is a reality check starting with Brown showing some truth and humility.

    Pass the sick bag.

  12. Harry Haddock

    never gonna give you up, never gonna make you cry, never gonna run a round and desert

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