Labour conference at Bournemouth

The places to go, the parties to attend, the people to be seen with ... and the ones to avoid
Click to follow
Indy Politics

Where to be...

The old-style chintz of Dorset's most famous seaside town has Conservative written all over it. But - perhaps in step with its drift to the right - the Labour Party will make Bournemouth its home for the next few days.

How to spot a delegate...

New Labour is all sharp suits, sober ties, ultra-neat haircuts and a slightly arrogant air. The women are about the same, only uglier.

From the platform...

The diminutive and, unless you're from Glasgow, incomprehensible but popular party chairman Ian McCartney's opening remarks should tee things up nicely for Monday's speakers - Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, Chancellor Gordon Brown, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. On Tuesday morning, Education Secretary Charles Clarke will take to the platform, only to be upstaged that afternoon by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in what will surely be one of the hardest conference speeches of his career. Health Secretary John Reid kicks off on Wednesday, followed by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy and Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith wrap things up.

On the fringe...

Breakfast in bed? I don't think so. With precious little real debate in the hall, the hundreds of fringe meetings begin on Sunday morning with the Campaign for Labour Democracy (oddly no Cabinet ministers on the speakers' list for that one - more likely to be found at the Society of Labour Lawyers meeting that afternoon). Monday sees the Equal Opportunities Commission session on valuing women and fighting low pay as well as The Independent's fringe, chaired by Steve Richards, which asks: What is a Labour Government For? On Tuesday Charles Clarke faces up to teachers and lecturers' unions, and later that night the Social Market Foundation invites delegates to "Think While You Drink", a challenge for many. On Wednesday, the GMB and T&G unions will invite discussion on "Putting Labour back into the Labour Party", while the comedian Simon Fanshawe will be MC at a "celebrity" pub quiz. The politicians' team, known as Yesterday's Men, fields Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers. Perhaps Geoff Hoon will be a late addition.

Don't mention...

The war. The same goes for the Government's plans to introduce top-up fees.

Hard act to follow...

As Labour's international guest, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, follows in the footsteps of Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, buoyed up perhaps by the recent endorsement of his sartorial elegance from Tom Ford, creative director of Gucci, who described Karzai as "the most chic man in the world".

Party people...

In keeping with tradition, the first and probably best party of the season will be that hosted by Geoffrey Robinson MP and the New Statesman. The Mirror's bash on Wednesday is a must for all you dancing queens with its Abba tribute entertainment from Bjorn Again.

Steer clear of...

Geoff Hoon, spin-doctors, anyone who's appeared at the Hutton inquiry.

Be seen with...

Ordinary delegates. They have done no harm. And Billy Bragg's still quite cool.

Star potential?

Cut along to the launch of the Labour Party Academy. It's like Fame Academy, but you don't have to sing.

Jo Dillon

Comments