Village People: Party's power plan: on a wing and a prayer

At the party conferences...

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The end of Labour's conference was a bit of a downbeat affair this year. Gone are the days when John Prescott would send delegates on their way with a song and a bit of mangled syntax.

Harriet Harman, moaned some of the delegates, just doesn't quite do it for them. Not that they're being sexist, mind. Then there was the less than rousing rendition of Jerusalem that followed her speech which everyone succeeded in mangling. Not helped by a rather screechy singer from the podium, the overall effect was to make you reach for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Ready for government? On this account the Labour faithful aren't even ready for church.

The quality of Mersey strained

There has been no shortage of praise for the "wonderful city of Liverpool" from the podium this week. Not surprising given that's where this conference has been held. But behind the scenes it's a different story. Some senior Labour people are unhappy at the choice of venue. The conference hotel, they say, is tatty, there are not enough meeting rooms inside the secure zone and those that are there seem little more than prefab boxes. Don't expect them back in a hurry.

In danger of going off the rails...

Just in case anyone was under an illusion that fringe meetings at political conferences were independent – they're not. Labour exercises the total control about where and when they are held and even which MPs can speak. Who says New Labour control freakery is dead?