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September 16, 2007
Party conference season is upon us and this past week saw the warm-up act, the Trades Union Congress, hit Brighton. I was there. For work.
I’d never been to Brighton before. It’s a bit like an English San Francisco: hip, hilly, by the sea, with a lot of gays, hobos and people with American accents.
Work involved going to fringe meetings (lunchtime and teatime events with speakers and a policy theme which take place outside the main conference) and eating the free food. I also had to take copious notes then write up reports on each.
The most interesting fringe I attended was organised by the Public Services Not Private Profit campaign, and featured several union bosses and the man who was so very nearly elected Prime Minister, John McDonnell MP.
It was a hotbed of leftie propaganda, which I found very refreshing. It’s a shame there wasn’t a leadership contest because there’d have been a good debate about the neo-liberal ideology of the Labour Government, given the litany of botched privatisations McDonnell et al reeled off.
Bob Crow, the RMT General Secretary and scourge of London’s commuters, was there, calling for a return to nationalisation and talking fondly of his Staffordshire bull terrier Castro (bought on May 1st no less). I don’t know what they put in the water at the RMT, but his oratory was remarkably Prescottesque.
The chief of the Prison Officers Association Colin Moses gave a particularly rousing speech. He may very well be the first black Geordie I’ve ever come across, which, having spent most of my life in Newcastle, says a lot about the city’s demography.
The worst event I went to was on the NHS. They only put on crisps and three types of sandwiches – including cheese and pickle, which I don’t like, and really dry tuna. Next door was the Morning Star’s event, and I checked out their food offering. Boy, if that’s the kind of spread we’d get under a communist regime, sign me up!
Most surprisingly, not one of the events had TUC biscuits.
I’m off to Brighton again in a couple of hours, this time for the Lib Dems.