You have to have a thick skin at conference. You attend several fringe meetings; take part in policy seminars, you even present at every session of conference, but you just can’t seem to get your point heard. On the conference floor it seems that you need to be waving some unusual item, whether that’s a regional (or even red) flag, an umbrella (open is better than closed) or even have red hair!
This lunchtime I was in another fringe meeting on energy – Green Jobs: Creating the right environment, and yet again didn’t get the chance to put across my plan for using council borrowing powers to boost the installation of solar panels in social housing. Admittedly, it was a case of the meeting running out of time, rather than any conscious decision on the part of the chair, but its still a little disheartening.
However the main event of the afternoon was Ed’s Q&A session. As I have said before, Ed is at his best when he is himself. He is relaxed, passionate, and honest. Get him talking on climate change, and you will see someone who really cares about the planet and the sort of future our kids will have. Ask him about the lost opportunities of our young people, and again he comes really alive with the sort of fervour I think we last had in a Labour leader when Neil Kinnock was in charge.
He didn’t pretend to have all the answers, and that’s good. I think too much has been made of requiring Labour to have all the answers three and a half years away from an election. It’s the direction of travel that matters, and the tackling of vested interests is something which does appeal to the party, and will appeal to the electorate.
During the Q&A I was texted by my wife, Pamela, to say that Anne Begg had tweeted (I don’t have twitter on my phone) saying she hadn’t realised I was at conference. A couple of texts later and we had arranged to meet up for a meal with some other folk from Aberdeen. Their waiting outside the Jury’s Inn was Anne, her assistant Gavin, Dawn Bellamy, Greg Williams and Sonia Campbell.
Dawn and Greg I had bumped into earlier in the week at various fringe events, but was really glad to have met Sonia, whose father is Willie Campbell, who stood for Angus South at the Holyrood election in May. It was a pleasure to finally meet up with her after only being a friend on Facebook. We went for a curry in the excellent (and newly opened) East is East restaurant just outside the secure zone.
It was great to relax and chat amongst friends. I was also fascinated to learn that Anne had been my predecessor as Angus CLP delegate before she was selected for Aberdeen South in 1996. Her first visit to conference was in 1988, although she only went in the years it was in the October holidays! As Dawn said, a lot to live up to – I hope I have.