Labour Conference: from the floor; A busy day for the dark ones

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The Independent Online
Not a victory, but quite close - yesterday the motion calling for Trident to be scrapped, which I had the honour of proposing, came close to success and gave us the best debate of the week.

It was a busy day for the dark ones if conference floor rumour is to be believed but more of that later.

The last time I was at a conference with wall-to-wall ministers and heads of state was a United Nations bash I was covering as the Tehran correspondent of this paper. For the first morning, as well as the ubiquitous company of bearded security men, I was followed by a young Iranian cub reporter on his first big assignment, eager to learn from an old pro, he said.

He disappeared during lunch but as I spotted him later that afternoon and approached him he blurted: "I'm sorry, they have told me you are a British spy, I can't be seen with you." Yesterday, after my speech I was overwhelmed by a feeling of deja vu as I approached the group of delegates I had met during the week around Stalag Millbank by the sea - the Labour Party Conference compound. They looked at me uneasily and then whispered that they were very sorry but their regional organisers were watching them and they didn't want to risk being seen with me.

Meanwhile, in the conference gossip had spread like wild fire that "they" were out to kill the Trident motion as well as one calling for defence spending cuts.

Earlier in the week the woman who was to second my motion told me that she had come under heavy lobbying to drop the motion. She said that the junior defence minister, John Reid, had spoken to her personally and that she wanted to drop the whole thing.

As I stepped up onto the podium yesterday something took hold of me, I trashed the speech I had taken a week to prepare, and spoke from the heart. My seconder then delivered a speech that ran well over the allocated three minutes and when asked several times to finish her remarks insisted that she just wanted to say something else - that she did not want to support the motion. My thanks to whoever it was who, without hesitation, seconded from the floor.

I really have no idea if any of these stories are true. I merely give them to you to convey the atmosphere of conference.

- Cherry Mosteshar

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