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UK Politics

Labour Conference Diary: All eyes are on Chuka – the bright young thing who can blather

The political graveyard is littered with ex-future leaders who have risen too fast only to wilt in the heat of too much exposure. With that caveat, let it be noted that Chuka Umunna, Labour's shadow Business Secretary, is acquiring the kind of aura that Tony Blair or Gordon Brown had 27 years ago, when the Tory diarist Alan Clark singled them out as Labour's "two bright boys".

It was not that Umunna said much that was memorable in conversation with Channel 4's Gary Gibbon yesterday. He was, frankly, giving a politician's blather, but the skill of his delivery and the way he circumvented awkward questions was impressive. Three minders flanked him as he entered the hall. Adoring members of the audience snatched his picture on their mobile phones.

He bridged the separate parts of the Labour Party by praising Tony Blair's government for redistributing wealth, and by saying how proud he was to be in a party that contained both Peter Mandelson (friend of the rich) Jeremy Corbyn (of the Spartan left).

In the evening, he was guest speaker at meetings organised by the Blairite pressure group, Progress, and its "democratic left" rival, Compass. And he has a good back story, of which the most interesting titbit to emerge yesterday is that he was a member of one of the children's choirs who provided the theme song for the TV series, Mr Bean. Definitely one to watch.

The benefits of having a permanent lock-in

The Tories have their conference in Birmingham next week, which they hope won't degenerate into a clash between David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Yesterday, the Prime Minister invited the Mayor of London and his wife, Marina, to Chequers, which included an outing to a pub – the one, reputedly, where Cameron once absent-mindedly left little Nancy behind. How dearly he must wish he could do the same to Boris, permanently.

Miliband gets a mate in for speech chore

Hours of work goes into the party leaders' speeches at annual conferences. Ed Miliband has an old university chum, Marc Stears, to help with his. He needs Mr Stears, who knows how to apply himself, because the comment by a German teacher on his old school report – published in the Mail on Sunday – still applies. She wrote of young Miliband: "Reached high standard in most respects. More care, however, is needed with homework."

Harman tied in knots over knickers

Harriet Harman was challenged on LBC yesterday to explain why she wants to "ban" page 3 girls from the The Sun, but not pictures of "naked men" on billboards. She said she is not proposing to ban anything, but has backed an online petition calling on The Sun to give over. Plus, she said, "the men keep their knickers on". So do the page 3 girls, her interviewer, Iain Dale, pointed out. Ms Harman said: "Surely women can aspire to more than posing with only their knickers on!"

Quote of the day

"If you ask me about Ed Balls, I'd say he'd give an aspirin a headache." - Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB union, on LBC radio