So, another year, another conference is done and dusted, and with a weekend of nursing the square root of a hangover ahead of us, here is The Daily’s favourite bits of Manchester…
Best karaoke: Sighted staying up until the early hours of the morning in the bar of the Midland Hotel on the last night were Brownite MPs Ed Balls and Ann Keen leading a gaggle of Brownite aides and recently elected NEC member Ellie Reeves in a possibly slightly tipsy sing-song. Balls distinguished himself with a fine air guitar performance, but the possible future Chancellor sadly refused requests such as Big Spender, Taxman or Money Money Money. No one dared ask for Golden Brown.
A close-run second prize for those cheeky attendees at the Labour Students party who reworked an old classic to new words. We believe it went “We are family – Ian Gibson is my MP”.
Most lonesome tonight: Not joining them was Tom Watson, most high-profile signatory of the infamous letter. He lurked in the back of the bar but remained popular with many delegates stopping to shake his hand, though others made less complimentary gestures. He stopped for a drink with fellow Millennium Group MP Kevin Brennan, who for a Government Whip seemed to be getting on with the unlikely rebel pretty well.
Stupid headline of the week comes (surprise, surprise) from the Indy:
“Cruddas launches deputy campaign with Trident attack”
We know it’s going to be a tough campaign, but we’re not aware that Jon Cruddas has his finger on the nuclear button. Perhaps we should be doubly grateful that Geoff Hoon is not standing.
CandidateWatch: Many potential candidates have been doing the rounds of as many conference events as possible, marshalled by Special Advisers whose job it is to devise a grid that will get their employer round the maximum number of delegates and influential organisations in the time available, with military precision.
Peter Hain was such a ubiquitous presence that many started to speculate that there must be more than one of him. He even stopped off at the Compass stand for a photo opp with his arms around the volunteers – presumably a “hug a lefty” strategem, though he smoothly avoided any discussion of actual politics before oiling his way to the next flesh-pressing engagement.
RetreadWatch: Conference is also a hunting ground for those former MPs who lost at the last election and are now desperately searching for somewhere safer to fight next time. Barbara Roche, formerly of Hornsey and Wood Green, spent much of conference on the coat-tails of Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who would certainly be happy to help another Brownite (back) in to Parliament, possibly with an eye on Stockton North. Meanwhile ex-Croydon MP Geraint Davies cut a rather sad figure trying (unsuccessfully) to convince Welsh delegates that he was a “local” candidate for Swansea. Chris Leslie is rumoured to be in the mix for John Prescott’s Hull East base, but might face a surprise obstacle in the shape of Prescott’s son. In the papers, the Sun reported that Portillo-slayer Stephen Twigg, himself slain in turn in 2005, is leading a campaign to oust Kate Hoey from her Vauxhall seat. The story is hilariously implausible, but Twigg may well have an eye out elsewhere in Lambeth.
Nice guy of the week: Former Labour Students National Secretary and Young European Movement President Henri Murison, who refused to give up a vacant stall from his table at the Labour Students party to allow a disabled delegate to sit down.
Speech of the week: Blair’s speech was a masterclass ruined only by the muppets waving hand made “Thank you Tony” placards. Oh, and the fact that it was vacuous bollocks.