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UK Politics

Labour conference diary: 30/09/2009

*Gordon Brown "is like a beetle on its back waving its feet in the air. The best thing to do is to put him out of his misery and stamp on him." So said Peter Carpenter, chairman of the Putney Labour Party and donor of £33,000 to the party, in a BBC interview yesterday. In that atmosphere, whose brilliant idea was it to entertain delegates as they waited for Brown to speak by playing "Sit Down" over the loudspeakers?

The lyrics of this 20-year-old classic by the Manchester rock band James are close to what the Prime Minister must be feeling these days... "It's hard to carry on when you feel all alone. Now I've swung back down again it's worse than it was before..." It is a song, reputedly, about depression and the effect of pills. And if that weren't bad enough, after the speech they played "Moving On Up" by those purveyors of pap house music, M People – "You done me wrong, your time is up... Move right outta here baby. Go and pack your bags." Surely "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers would have been more uplifting?

*An ironic footnote to a story you may remember about Walter Wolfgang, an 86-year-old who was evicted from the Labour conference in Brighton four years ago because he shouted "Nonsense!" during a speech by Jack Straw. The steward who marched him out was Joe Ifill, a Labour activist from Hove. Mr Ifill, 44, is complaining that, for the third year in a row, he has been denied a pass into the party conference.

*In two weeks, it will be 25 years to the day since the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, in an attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher. Five people died; others were crippled for life. Among the guests at a late-night reception in the Grand last night was the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. The old IRA commander should be thankful that he could relax, enjoy the free refreshment, and not worry that some terrorist might set off a bomb that would bury him in rubble.

*Amazing how radical old Labour politicians become as they leave office. Alan Milburn, who will be quitting the Commons in a few months, gave a valedictory speech at a conference fringe meeting. He called for the scrappingof Trident, of aircraft carriers, ID cards, and all major road schemes. Not quite what he used to say when he was in Cabinet.

*Fiona Phillips, formerly of 'GMTV', supplied yesterday's most cringeworthy moment, doing the warm-up for the Home Secretary, Alan "I love you" Johnson – "He's good-looking, handsome and, at 6ft 2in, would make a good policeman." She even parroted the line used the previous day by Peter Mandelson: "If I can make a comeback, we can make a comeback." By all means make a comeback on television, Fiona, but please, don't take up politics as a career.

*Recent Labour conferences have offered extensive celebrity-spotting, but – Fiona Phillips apart – there have been fewer this year. Even Billy Bragg is away touring. But the cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard has been much in evidence. As has Nancy Dell'Olio, famous for being Sven-Goran Eriksson's former squeeze, and a clutch of sporting heroes – Kelly Holmes, Tessa Sanderson and the boxer Amir Khan.