Labour Conference: From the Floor: A rebel after all these years

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The Independent Online
My life seems to have become the story of the Labour Party in reverse, over 20 years as a supporter I've moved from the "rich bitch" to the new loony left - and all this without changing a single ideal or principle. By the end of my first day in Brighton I was beginning to think it was true what they said about mobile phones and absent-mindedness - all these be-suited young delegates around me must be Tories at the wrong conference.

Conversation that included my support of the minimum wage brought the response: "But a lot of businesses will go under you know," and any suggestion that we might divert defence spending to education resurrected the ghost of Saddam.

A glimmer of hope came at John Prescott's reception when his reference to his friend the crab got a marginally more vigorous applause than the appearance of the Very Important Person formally known as "call me Tony". When the Very Important Person arrived at the NEC women's reception, 119 women MPs were not enough to protect him from the jeers when he complained of a cold, but said he was sure he had come to right place for sympathy.

By the time the first conference of the Labour government in 19 years kicked off yesterday I appeared to be wearing a badge visible to everybody but me which said: "Beware, dangerous loony left - contact could damage your chances of a safe seat." Had it not been for Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone (not my usual bedfellows) extolling me to stay with the party, the black looks from officials might have persuaded me to hand over my party card.

Perhaps the only truly worrying aspect so far were the calls for my head when a fellow delegate read a private note I was making in my diary. There I was expecting party officials to chastise the nosy reader and deliver a lecture on personal freedom and privacy - instead they tried to make me feel guilty. I don't know what the rest of the week will bring for me as the woman who is refusing back down in moving the motion to scrap Trident.

But I do know that as my conscience and I leave Brighton on Friday we may well be waving goodbye to my hopes of a safe seat.

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