Labour conference diary: Yvette's ironing-board secrets revealed

  • @MattChorley

Board stiff

Don't tell Harriet Harman, but Yvette Cooper owes her star-of-conference status to an ironing board. Not because she pressed neat creases in Ed Balls's underpants, but because of the hours spent rehearsing her speech on a makeshift lectern. With a ring binder propped on the board, it was the perfect height to perfect her delivery. Maybe someone should pop to Argos for Ed Miliband?

Thrown the book

While Alistair Darling toured the conference bars and coffee shops, Gordon Brown was nowhere to be seen in Liverpool. Probably for the best, as the former chancellor's memoirs have plunged relations into the deep freeze. Veterans of the New Labour government recognised much of what Darling wrote, but were thankful of one thing. "I'm glad I wasn't the one who had to phone Gordon and read out the extracts," said one former Brown aide.

Labour studs

Another frontbencher who wowed the faithful was the defence spokesman Jim Murphy. He was lucky anyone could hear him. During the Hacks vs Labour football match he became fed up with a skilful member of the media team and stuck the boot in. Job done. Except hours later when he turned up to address the nation, the man holding the mike for the Beeb was the same, now limping, player. Ouch.

Francophone hacking

Chris Bryant, the fluent French speaker and Rhondda MP, was being interviewed by a Quebec broadcaster about phone hacking when he was asked if he had any regrets about taking on Murdoch – who owns the lion's share of Canadian media. Without missing a beat, Bryant channelled his inner Piaf: "Non, rien de rien. Je ne regrette rien."

Umunna moaner

With a reshuffle imminent, everyone was speculating about which of the 2010 newbies might be on the way up. But those being tipped to spend more time with their constituents had their claws out. One odious frontbencher whose days must be numbered really had it in for Chuka Umunna, the charismatic Streatham MP often likened to Barack Obama. The old stager had prepared a gag to dispel the idea that Umunna could recreate the success of the "Yes. We. Can." campaign in the US. "No. We. Can't," he chuntered. Ho Ho.

Heading south

Labour strategists admit they will never get back into power without winning big in the South. Except it seems no one is allowed to use the S-word. Where Labour used to talk about the North-South divide all the time, research has shown southerners resent the idea that life is all rosy, and people in the North dislike it being portrayed as a vast swath of industrial wasteland. Time for a rethink. Maybe we can all be north of Jersey.