The Labour Party in Brighton: On the Front

THE spokesman on European affairs, George Robertson, goes home to his Hamilton constituency beaming. He has sold almost all the 1,000 'Maastricht veteran' mugs produced by the local Dunoon Pottery, and in so doing raised pounds 1,000 for Mencap. The mugs bear a copy of the treaty and Douglas Hurd's words of thanks to those who took part in the debate: buyers include the Labour front bench, Kenneth Clarke, and the Prime Minister (four), while John Birt has also pocketed one. Only Tristan Garel-Jones, the Foreign Office minister who was in charge of Maastricht business, refused one, but he sent a cheque with this note: 'I would like nothing less than a mug to commemorate the Maastricht treaty, but if you'd like to buy one and smash it over (the Labour Euro-phobe) Bob Cryer's head, I would be grateful.'

MARJORIE Mowlam found four smartly-suited men looking rather uncomfortable among the largely female audience for the 'Beyond the nuclear family' fringe meeting. 'Is this,' they asked her, 'the meeting about nuclear waste?'

WATCHING the Northern Ireland debate from the gallery yesterday was a lonely figure wearing the security pass of one of the major unions. This was the Ulster Unionist Chris McGimpsey, a West Belfast councillor and veteran of the all-party peace talks. He detected some hypocrisy in the NEC-backed motion that called for 'dialogue and negotiation' to achieve a settlement, because Labour refused to allow him, and five colleagues (including Reg Empey, the Lord Mayor of Belfast) to attend the conference. The rules - not entirely strictly observed - state that only 'sister parties' not in opposition to Labour may attend. Labour does not, of course, stand in Northern Ireland, where the SDLP is an affiliated party. Calum MacDonald, MP for the Western Isles, who spoke alongside Dr McGimpsey at a fringe meeting, said the ban on the Ulster Unionists was absurd. 'If we call for dialogue, it is inconsistent to refuse to allow them even to listen to our debates'.

CONFERENCE mysteries can now be cleared up. The bizarre grey design at the side of the powder-blue backdrop is not, after all, a map of the Baltic coastline - it is the outline of Labour's red rose emblem. The effect, we understand, is intended to suggest grey clouds fleeing from a clear blue sky - resulting, as Tony Benn despairingly remarks, in the first Tory-blue platform at a Labour conference. And that inspires our winning anagram of the conference slogan, Building For the Future: 'Fight for it, rude unblue]' Reader Penelope Hughes wins a bottle provided by the Scotch Whisky Association.

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