Tag Archives: labour party conference

Straight back down to earth

Back in the real world after the heady political junkie-ism of Manchester. My appearance on BBC News 24 got bounced to much later in the evening due to Gordon’s speech running over time, so I first went to the reception given by the Irish Ambassador. Met some interesting people there. That was really the point of being in Manchester – all the people I met from all sorts of areas – media, industry, lobbying, academia. I think we’re coming back with some better ideas of how to get our message across. And of course it’s always nice to spend time with the people you work with in a non-office context.

We were sitting in the bar of the main conference hotel last night (I was having a G&T to recover from doing a live interview on national TV!) when the Brown cavalcade swept into the lobby, Gordon glad-handing and Sarah wearing a very nice red dress (much better thank what she had worn that afternoon in the conference hall, if I can be Trinny and Susannah about her for a moment). Then they swept out again with lots of acolytes swarming around them. You might have thought that the conference-ites would have been less star-struck, but everyone was clearly very excited to see him. I saw several people wearing “I heart GB” badges, which I thought was some sort of jingoistic statement, until I realised who rather than what GB was!

So, as I said, back down to earth with a bump. I’ve got a crazy day tomorrow, with wall-to-wall meetings, including the Double Club, interviewing the propective new admin assistant and meeting what seems to be the only other UK Eisenhower fellow!

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Continuing at the conference

You couldn’t do this too often – your liver, waistline and synapses would all suffer from the excess of snack food and alcohol and lack of sleep. But it has certainly been fun. I’ve attended some interesting debates on the fringe, met more useful people in 3 days than in the previous 3 months and also caught up with old friends (including the Director of the Fawcett Group, who was in my year and on my course at university. And who recognised me, which is always nice!). I made the mistake of going to Fringe events that were interesting, where the real old hands know to work out which venues have the best food (Radisson wins that one here) and which organisations provide the most drink. Some events are “turn up and gorge” whereas some are the hot tickets of the night – there was no getting into the Guardian party, though I wonder why it seemed to be the one to be at, which it seemed to be men in suits standing around talking, just like all the others…

Gordon is on at the moment. He really should smile more, he looks so much more human when he does so. He’s only mentioned Europe once so far and weirdly it was to pledge support for the Temporary Agency Workers’ Directive. I’d have thought that he might have focused on a global issue like the financial crisis or that old chestnut that even I am beginning to think is getting a bit tired – climate change.

Have been doing the day job while here, with the text and data roaming proposal coming out of the Commission today, so doing several interviews. In fact, I’d better go, cause I’ve got to talk to the BBC. Watch for me on News 24!

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Panic on the streets of London…

Panic on the streets of Manchester… well maybe not panic, actually the atmosphere has been much better than you might have thought. Maybe it was because the sun was shining. It’s gone now, and there is a much more sober feeling to today, though that might have something to do with my slight hangover after drinking too much dodgy Chardonnay at the European Commission reception last night! Still, it did its work, as I met loads of people, including the editors of the Politics Show and Newsnight and John Pienaar. I’ve been stalking Jim Murphy and David Miliband at fringe events – one or the other has been at every one I’ve been to, but as they’ve all been on European issues, that’s perhaps not so surprising. Jim Murphy in particular seems to be “one of the angels” as my father would say, but I do wish that some of the pro-European rhetoric was followed through by some pro-European action. It’s all well and good to say that it’s self-defeating to blame Europe for the bad things and not share the credit for the good ones when credit is due, but some of his ministerial and civil service colleagues don’t always seem to share that view of things.

I’ve bumped into loads of people that I never expected to – like Steve Morris, who was in Brussels years ago and Ed Owen, who used to work for CORDIS, and of course ones that you would expect, including Robert Evans MEP who was patron of the English Comedy Club’s 90th anniversary celebrations 10 years ago. Ironically I saw him the night that they were having the 100th anniversary dinner in Brussels, which I missed because of the conference.

Anyway, I’d best head off – I’ve been asked to find a European flag for an MEP: the things you find yourself doing!

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Britain in Europe

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.

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