Labour conference diary

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Indy Politics

* Forget left and right, Brownite and Blairite. The new Labour schism is between the "fatalists" and the "possiblists". The former think the party is deep in a hole and will crash to its worst defeat since 1935. The latter think the party is deep in a hole but might – just – scramble its way out.

* Unremitting gloom for Labour in a presentation by Andrew Cooper of pollsters Populus. The party's popularity is in "sub-Michael Foot territory", Gordon Brown is considered a weaker prime minister than John Major and just over 20 per cent of voters think Labour is united. James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told Mr Cooper: "I wouldn't want to be a baby seal around you and a club."

* One delegate drowning his sorrows in the Midland Hotel bar complained that the conference proceedings were like a Nuremburg rally. His drinking buddy drew on a different analogy from Teutonic history to describe the unreal atmosphere in Manchester. He said: "It's like celebrating 40 glorious years of the Democratic Republic of Germany before the fall."

* Meanwhile, Gordon Brown was the invisible man as modernising cabinet ministers queued up to do their thing at the Progress rally – the annual roll call of the Blairites. Speeches by Hazel Blears, Andy Burnham and the two Miliband boys all passed without any mention of the Prime Minister. It took 50 minutes for John Denham to make the first passing reference to Mr Brown. Even Derek Draper, the former adviser to Peter Mandelson, got more mentions.

* At least things cheered up at The Sun's first ever party conference fringe meeting. Sadly, the room at the Manchester City Art Gallery filled to overflowing, leaving such luminaries as Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, and Labour rebel Siobhan McDonagh, cooling their heels outside. Inside the hall Cherie Blair was avoiding familiar bear traps – refusing to give her verdict on Gordon Brown.