I went to the launch today of a report by Chatham House on “A British Agenda for Europe“. Whatever your views on the subject, any politics graduate would be excited about being in a room with Shirley Williams and Helen Wallace. Well maybe excited is a bit much, but it was still great. The document has been put together by a very knowledgeable group of people. They made it clear that they didn’t always agree about everything, but the report shows what they did agree on. It supports the point, one that I truly believe, that far from there being a zero sum game between what’s in the “national interest” and the “EU interest”, very often our own interests are best served by taking an active, leading role in Europe, shaping it with our pragmatism. The more we are seen as reluctant partners, the less influence we will have and the more detached we will become from what’s going on. That is what will be damaging, not taking an active role in shaping Europe’s future.
We’re all gearing up for the Labour conference next week. The Political section have attended all the major conferences, whereas we in Media are only going to Labour as it’s the one where we have an event. For me personally I’m hoping to use it as an opportunity to meet a lot of the political journalists, as I haven’t really done so yet. There are also going to be loads of people from various pressure groups, think-tanks and so on, from Brussels and here, so it’ll be a good networking event. There are also some really interesting fringe events going on, though in the best tradition of conferences, all the sessions that you find most interesting are held at the same time… My previous Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou will be there. I hope we manage to find 5 minutes to catch up, as I very much enjoyed working with her all those years ago (well, 5).
It’s so great being back in London. I mean, I miss my friends there so much. But being in London itself is just a joy. Last night was late-night opening at the National Gallery and I went with two friends. Just being able to wander in after work and gaze at some of my favourtie paintings – what a buzz. I also had loads of fun on Monday when I got on the wrong train, ended up in Wandsworth Town, so got a bus to Clapham Junction and realised I was near a Ceroc venue on the night it was on. So I just bowled up, and had a great hour and a half dancing away. Given I haven’t done any Ceroc for about 5 years, it wasn’t too bad, though I didn’t have the best shoes on, so couldn’t manage any longer as my feet were screaming for mercy. Such good exercise, and I hope that when the crazy couple of weeks coming up (Manchester for the conference, then Brussels for the press officers’ meeting, then Gascony to set up the house there) are over, I’ll be able to start going more regularly.