Labour conference diary

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Indy Politics

* Gordon Brown received one of the week's biggest cheers for pledging a referendum on reforming the electoral system. But many of the party faithful are spitting feathers over his belated enthusiasm for the alternative voting system.

Furious that Labour failed to deliver on a manifesto promise to hold a vote on proportional representation way back in 1997, they packed a fringe meeting to denounce his announcement as too little, too late. One delegate even said he was going to leave the party in protest.

The angriest reaction came from Neal Lawson, head of the Compass think-tank, who said failure to reform the voting system raised the "possibility of there never being a Labour government again". John Denham, the Communities Secretary, himself a supporter of PR, tried to defend the Government. But his was a lonely voice.

* In an extreme case of wishful thinking, some senior Labour figures are pinning their hopes on Irish voters to revive the party's fortunes.

Their scenario goes something like this: Ireland votes in favour of the Lisbon Treaty tomorrow, bringing its ratification closer (even though it has still to be approved by Poland and the Czech Republic). David Cameron faces awkward questions over whether he would throw the EU into chaos by demanding a British referendum. He sits on the fence. The Eurosceptic Tory right goes ballistic. The Conservative leader faces civil war.

At that point, even Labour's most hardened optimists awake from their reveries.

* Ben Bradshaw didn't seem too bothered by The Sun raining on Labour's parade. Hours after the news broke of the paper's defection to the Tories, the svelte Culture Secretary was waving his arms and wiggling his hips as he warbled his way through a series of Beatles classics in the bar of the Grand Hotel.

* Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson hope they can win back Middle Britain with yet another war on binge drinking and antisocial behaviour. Perhaps they have drawn inspiration from Brighton, where Labour's conference has been unfortunate enough to coincide with freshers' week. Was it the sight of teams of hedonistic students, "shots for £1" signs outside pubs, and the inevitable misuse of traffic cones, that prompted them into action?

* There is no politician with less reason to love The Sun than Neil Kinnock. So the former Labour leader's reply was terse when he was asked whether he was surprised by its declaration of love for David Cameron. He said: "The Pope's a Catholic – that's how much surprise it gave me."

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