Sunday saw the conference properly launched with a huge amount of activity. Last time I was in Manchester for conference, the secure area was huge and very intense, however I’m quite pleased that this year it is a bit more snug round the centre itself and it is very efficient at getting you through. However the number of people outside trying to hand out leaflets and the like in sometimes quite an aggressive manner can be a bit off-putting. That said, it’s a but disappointing that Sky don’t seem to have produces their political top trumps this year, I quite liked them.
My main lunch fringe event was with the Labour Friends of the Forces. Sophy Gardner introduced the chair of the Army Benevolent Fund and then we heard from Vernon Coker, the Shadow Secretary of Defence. This was quite an inspirational event, not only to talk about the third sector supporting members of the Forces, but also about how Labour is also supporting members of the forces. While Sophy is becoming well-known for being an ex Wing Commander in the RAF, there were other Parliamentary Candidates there too from other parts of the forces, which was brilliant to see.
I spent a lot of time in the main conference hall too, as there were debates on Education, Better Politics and Stronger, Safer Communities. Sophy Gardner was selected to give the final speech of the day in the safer communities section and she highlighted the need for better education of young people in schools and colleges around PSHE and understanding the need to speak out if you are a victim of domestic Violence. She highlighted the case of Hollie Gazzard and how devastating that has been, but also the work done by Nick, Hollies Father, in setting up the Hollie Gazzard Trust (www.Holliegazzard.org).
You can hear Sophys Speech here:
Later on I attended the Labour List Rally which was themed “why I’m Labour”. In a packed marquee, Eddie Izzard gave his reasons alongside a host of others including Lee Sherriff, the Parliamentary Candidate from Carlisle. After this, I joined in at the Progress Reception, which was held down at the Comedy Store. I finished my evening off at the Association of Labour Councillors reception, where Ed Miliband assured us that this was his favourite reception…. 😉
What are also quite good are the exhibitors stands, I spent a fair bit of time talking to the Prostate Cancer trust about what we can do to raise further awareness of mens health issues, and a few others but more about them later.