Hazel Blears: My week

The Chair of the Labour Party takes charge of the annual party conference, in Manchester
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The Independent Online


It's my big day and I am nervous. I start the day with a church service and read a lesson. Tony [Blair] reads the other lesson. As I am responsible for setting the tone for this week, I use my first speech and a film to show the renewal and change our party brought about in Manchester over the past 10 years. I also hand out awards to party members who have been with us for more than 50 years: that's a lifetime dedication to me. Tonight, I attend six receptions and I have the honour to introduce the Prime Minister. I hardly have a voice left from all the speeches I held, but what a fantastic day.


Gordon Brown says today that our party not only needs a programme, but also a soul. I couldn't agree more, and that's what I want to really bring across this week. Today, members from different groups, for example some disabled people, join us at conference with their life stories. I am so proud of them because speaking at conference can be quite daunting. It was a different thing to do this year, but it seems to work well.


By now I think the conference has the atmosphere I wanted to achieve. Tony's speech is an emotional moment for me, and tonight's "Welsh night" cheers me up when a few old lovely ladies kiss and hug me. I meet Gerald Hancock, who has been with Labour for 59 years. He told me he joined the day he was demobbed from the war!


I take delegates to Salford to have a look at our regenerated area, called Langworthy, which has won the Britain In Bloom Award because of the lovely flowers planted in the area. My biggest highlight of today is shaking Bill Clinton's hand! And if that is not enough , I also get to dance with the ITV chief executive Charles Allen tonight!


I head to the Kath Locke Centre, a primary healthcare clinic, which is celebrating its 10th birthday. It's very inspiring for me to see how the locals run it. After listening to the John Reid speech, I hand out awards to two community heroes. We usually do conference at the seaside, but I realise that the idea of having it in a city really works well too.


I am going to visit a school this afternoon to speak to children who are having their own elections today. Saturday, I just want to go the countryside with my husband and take long walks and relax.

Interview by Marlijn Folkers