I like Brighton as the venue for conference, the sun and smaller secure zone makes it feel more like it should be, a gathering of like minded people, rather than trying to enter a Secret Nuclear Bunker within a concrete metropolis. It just has that immediate feel of being able to chill, rather than being on the starting blocks. Anyway, that aside, we are here for a week of intense navel gazing and (hopefully) some networking, sharing of good practice, learning lessons for the future and some fun.
This is going to be a difficult conference too, already there isn’t that feel of “we have a new leader, lets get on with the job” that we had in 2010, JC is still very much a hot topic.
So I arrived yesterday, early morning because my friend was attending woman conference so I had a fab morning of sitting on the sea front with my Kindle and a pint, and soaking up the atmosphere. The downside was that I managed to forget my bag with my credentials, meaning I had to get replacements (at the cost of £25 I might add) but at least I remembered the bag with my clothes in 😉
The first proper event was the South West Regional Reception and it was a pretty packed out event. I have been having real nostalgic moments where I remember my first conference in 2010 and knowing no one at all, whereas last night was quite good in being able to actually use the opportunity to catch up with friends, but also to recognise that some people were new too and to help them meet new people.
We had speeches from Clare Moody MEP, who highlighted the issues surrounding the EU referendum, from he reception Sponsors, Airbus, as well as a welcome visit from Yvette Cooper who spoke with a lot of passion about the future of the Party. Ben Bradshaw gave a great speech about the impact of not having the Trident Replacement and Marvin Rees (Mayoral Candidate for Bristol) had the honour of introducing Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn.
Tom spoke strongly and familiarly with the room about what had gone on before and how the party is going to move forward, and that he would be in charge of eating the Bacon Butties from now on. Jeremy welcomed us all, and highlighted that the Party had become a movement again with all the supporters and new members. He told us of his drive to help Bristol and Cornwall with a number of visits planned, not to mention Scotland and Wales but sadly no mention of the rest of the South West, or specifically Gloucestershire.
For me, the interesting thing was the number of people then discussing Jeremys performance afterwards, which largely split into two camps, one side thinking it was very personable, friendly, but not very strong, ad the other who were largely coming up with excuses or apologising for him. I think we just need to recognise that Jeremy will not be that Stand up strong speaker/leader that we want, he will be doing it his own way and I look forward to seeing how he will make the Leaders Speech his own. Ed Miliband made it his own by not using notes and making it feel very personal , so Jeremy will no doubt do something to “own it” too.
After the reception, it was then onto the LGBT 40th anniversary party, which was good fun, but here is where Im clearly showing my age, i that after an hour or so, I decided I was knackered and bailed early.
All in all, an interesting start, and I look forward to Conference kicking off in ernest today (Sunday).