The first day proper of the Conference begins and, like every Edinburgh festival I have ever been to, I wake up hungover, paranoid and convinced I’ve lost my mobile phone.
First night of conference and I made it to two receptions, one talk and end up getting very drunk discussing Labours chances in the next election with a middle aged counsellor from Milton Keynes. As a single girl I had hoped this conference to maybe bag myself a Jack Kennedy, or even a Bobby .To be honest ,by the end of the week I’d probably settle for a Teddy; as long as he doesn’t drive me home. To this end I’m considering lying and telling people I was a writer on “The Thick of It”.
I see Ed Milliband for the first time at the women’s reception earlier. The wine is good but the canapés are scanty. I had heard about the event from a female delegate from Croydon, who I chatted to earlier while she rested her feet and I charged my mobile. She had just been at a talk about the Bombardier workers that had moved her to tears. She seemed surprised by how it had affected and was a mixture of confused passion and weary despair.
At the Reception Harriet Harman takes to the stage to massive cheers, talks angrily about the regressive policies the coalition are pushing through and is then followed onstage by the man himself. He is looking very svelte, almost impish, in an expensive looking skinny fit suit. He talks about his desire for completely equal representation on women in the shadow cabinet and seems genuinely passionate about the subject. He doesn’t exude gravitas be is very confident and upbeat.
Soon after he finishes, whispers circulate that David Milliband’s talk is about to begin and I leave with some delegates from Manchester to try to sneak in. It feels like trying to get into a nightclub and people are slowly counted in. Andrew Marr is in the audience and I’m beginning to feel like we should be on nodding terms by now. The talk is about local Labour groups and the importance of community development. Its’ a side of politics I have never been interested in. I always saw the community workers, the youth groups, as the poor relation of Parliamentary politics, the woolly cardigan to their designer suit but the panel seem genuinely enthused about the subject. An audience member announces that her work in the community led to her being shortlisted as a parliamentary candidate in the next General Election. I’m surprised by how impressed people are by being chosen to be shortlisted. I always assumed that anybody could really stand if they wanted but it is treated as a real honour to be selected, an achievement in itself. David delivers a speech at the end, he is a natural on stage with broad open body langue and a warm delivery. The crowd adore him, clap at the mention of his name and reward him with a standing ovation at the end. There is genuine affection almost concern that he knows how much they like him. He is like a Queen mother to the party, or Queen brother. He mentions his younger sibling in a natural throw way manner and it feels like a friend casually mentioning a ex partner who we know treated them badly. Good for you David, we think, we are so bloody proud of you. He even poses for pictures with everybody at the end.
After that,it’s back to the same room the Women’s Reception was in but it has now been transformed into a Welsh Reception, where there are better canapés, and more wine and folk band onstage. It all feels like the end of a wedding reception, when suddenly, like a groom appearing to thank the guest, Ed’s back. He gives a short speech, different to the one he gave earlier. He hints at what he will say in Tuesday’s big speech- Outlining the difference between Conservatives “Big Society” – something he views as essentially selfish and individualistic and Labour’s instinctive belief in working together for the good of all Then he is gone, wishing us a great conference, like a rockstar thanking us for being an awesome crowd.
This morning I drag myself into conference centre determined to cover Ed Balls big speech. I assume that, as in Edinburgh the big event will be on in the evening, so at 3pm I have lots of time. Already my body clock has slipped into weird festival jet lag, where mid day feels like early morning. Ed’s speech has in fact happened at nine and I have very missed it. Then I realise, I have been mixing up Andrew Neill with Andrew Marr. I also remember I am giving a speech at a Labour Event tonight and have prepared nothing for it, having decided I’ll just wing it or banter myself through it. Hung-over, I feel decidedly less confident about my ability to do this. As I’m beginning to question just how good of an idea this conference adventure really is, I find my mobile phone, and once I get some free coffee, am confident it will all be manageable again.