Labour Party Conference Diary: The Lord of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath – aka He Who Must Not Be Named

Strange how Prime Ministers are forgotten by the parties they lead

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Indy Politics

Does the name “Gordon Brown” mean anything to you? Whoever he is, all trace of him seems to have fallen down a memory hole at the Labour annual conference in Manchester. Ed Miliband did a brief turn on stage to thank everyone he could think of who had helped secure victory in the Scottish referendum. He name checked Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander, and the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont. He turned to Alistair Darling to declare: “We will forever be indebted to you.” But nary a word about Gordon.

Ed Balls’s big conference speech included the admission that the Labour government was wrong to abolish the 10p tax rate, but he did not name the Labour Chancellor who first introduced the lower rate, then scrapped it. Margaret Curran, the shadow Scottish Secretary, pre-released the text of the speech she intended to deliver, which was going to include “a very special and heartfelt thanks to a man who electrified this campaign – Gordon Brown.” But come the moment, she left that passage out. However, when prompted at The Independent’s fringe meeting in the evening, Douglas Alexander effusively praised Brown’s contribution to winning the referendum campaign.

Strange how Prime Ministers are forgotten by the parties they lead. The Conservatives have forgotten John Major, Edward Heath and every 20th century Conservative prime minister except for Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Labour has forgotten all of theirs except Clement Attlee.

MPs dig deep

The hottest-selling author in Manchester, by a wide margin, is Dennis Skinner. It took him a full two hours to sign copies of his memoirs, Sailing Close to the Wind, ghostwritten by the Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire. Blackwells shifted all 200 copies, at £20 each, from the bookstall, and have had to send for more. Skinner, who is 82, is a former miner whose father was blacklisted in the 1930s: he embodies something the Labour Party still wishes it stood for.

Vaz 1, United fans 0

Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East, who chaired the Labour conference’s morning session, made a gleeful reference to Manchester United’s current difficulties, which included losing 5-3 to Leicester. He announced: “Can I first of all say to the supporters of Leicester City football club, I’m sure you are enjoying being in Manchester... and anyone who gets the figures ‘5-3’ into their speeches gets an extra 30 seconds from the chair.”

Marr’s attacks

Andrew Marr has used his new novel, Head of State, to pay off at least one personal score, as he had no compunction about revealing at a meeting on the Labour fringe. The novel’s plot includes two lovers who communicate in secret by leaving messages in library books – but they have to select books that will always be on the shelves because no one wants to read them. They choose a work by the historian Dominic Sandbrook. That was payback for Sandbrook’s stinking review of Marr’s History of Modern Britain.