And now we are in day 2. Yet again the sun was shining in Brighton as I embarked to make the 45-minute walking trek to the conference centre. The time was 9:30am when I arrived and as a true delegate I debated going to a 9:30am event simply to grab some breakfast. I was saved by my fellow delegate Nick who was following me for at least a couple of minutes wondering when I would actually notice him. Hunger apparently reduces my observational skills. It did not help either that I woke up with a stiff neck which meant I couldn't look to the right, where he was walking by.
Nick was the voice of reason telling me that the conference had actually started which meant I had no time to pretend I was interested in a random event just to grab some breakfast. I made my way to the conference floor and found a seat in the auditorium. Apparently day 1 was the taster and this was the real deal (give or take the Leader's speech, which by the way doesn't really have tickets but I'll get to that).
The morning session was the best one so far. There were a number of good speakers but two stand out: Hilary Benn and John McDonnell. Hilary was early on and was preceded by a number of delegates on the topic of Britain's place in the world. A lot of delegates were speaking for the first time which is impressive they had the courage to do so. It would be equally impressive if they did their research too so one of them did not refer to the Shadow Secretary as Tony Benn.
Hilary came on stage and started speaking about Britain's place in the world. Now I heard him speak the previous day and he was good. Anyone who makes a reference to the Life of Brian whilst talking about the EU referendum obviously gets my vote. But he exceeded that. He was unequivocally pro-European and made a number of compelling arguments for what place Britain must have in the world. Interestingly, he spoke about intervention as well, a topic that Labour people tend to avoid like the devil avoids a church on Sunday morning. He got a well-deserved standing ovation and he electrified the conference.
The mood was upbeat, the crowd eager and Jeremy showed why he is one of the people and that he gets things done! Candy Atherton came on stage. If you do not know who she is, don't worry, neither did I. What you should know is that she is a councillor and a wheelchair user. She came on stage and delivered a good speech that I am certain not many people remember. The speech was overshadowed by her wheelchair getting stuck on the podium. It is one of life's uncomfortable situations when people feel slightly lost and uncomfortable and look to their neighbours to the left and to the right, pleading with their eyes if their neighbour knows what the right thing to do is. Thankfully, there was no such hesitation or dithering by the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor. Both went to help Candy unstuck her chair. It took a minute but they did it. No one can argue that Jeremy is not here to help the disabled!
A number of other speeches followed about the Trade Union bill. One of the speakers was Len McCluskey. He may be a divisive figure but his oratory skills are to be envied! He can definitely rouse a crowd. If he gave a speech to a morgue, I'm pretty certain he would get a standing ovation. He certainly deserved the one he received in the conference! And now was the time of John McDonnell, shadow chancellor.
And he delivered. My God, he delivered! His speech was one of those rare speeches. Not because of his excellence but because it was a straight-talking speech that didn't faff or dither, addressed all key points and delivered a very clear, unambiguous, detailed message of what the Labour economic policy would be. It was a somber, plain speech that seethed of power, vision and determination. It was a direct contrast to the politics of George Osborne. It was one of these moments that attendees would say to their children "I was there when he made that speech"! Labour now has strong foreign policy and economic visions!
After that speech, it was time for fringe events. I identified 4 fringe events I wanted to attend. Who knew that all of them started at the same time? After some careful consideration and failing in my attempts to self-clone, I attended a Huffington Post (thank you for publish my blogs by the way!) conversation with Dan Jarvis . Good talk, ran on time and then it was time to get back to the conference.
The afternoon session was difficult. After the exhilarating morning speeches, the afternoon felt boring. It may have been the slump following my scoffing at the fringe of chips and sandwiches though. I decided to leave a few minutes before the end of the conference to search for the elusive Leader speech ticket. I finally found out that the invitations don't really mean anything and I simply have to queue for a few hours hoping to get in. Unfortunately, I left my tent and portaloo at home so I have to be strategic with water consumption whilst waiting. I'll feel like a slightly hairy 14-year old waiting to get in to a 1-D conference .
After the conference ended, a string of fringe events started. I met a number of high profile people such as Glenis Willmot (awesome woman), leader of the Labour MEPs, Gianni Pittella, president of the Socialists and Democrats group and Steve Rotheram Liverpool MP (great guy , Steve, if you are reading this I'd love to have a beer with you).
Unfortunately, considering the high note of the conference, I was disappointed to attend a meeting where Chuka Umunna was speaking. Politics are fluid, opportunities come and go in the blink of an eye and everyone lives and dies by their choices. So did Chuka when he first declined to run for leader and then declined to participate in the shadow cabinet. I was saddened to hear him being bitter because of the choices he made. Labour has turned a new page, thousands have joined, yet some people still do not comprehend what happened. As with Scotland, it is a new politics. If you do not adapt, you will be left behind. Surely any good politician understands this.
My final event was Save the Children. I was so tired that I was looking desperately for a chair to sit down and I was yawning uncontrollably. Needless to say there were no chairs. After speaking to Amy Lamé for a five minutes and listening to speeches by Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis and Natasha Kaplinsky, I started my trek back home.
Me, my stiff neck, blistered feet and cornucopia of thoughts journeyed the silent back roads of Hove back to my room. Today was an excellent day. There is a lot to be said for the next, young thing but experience, especially in politics, matters. Hilary Benn and John McDonnell demonstrated that perfectly. Today's conference was an amazing experience that I was proud and humbled to be part of. Now, onwards to day 3 and standing for a few hours to hear Jeremy address the party for the first time in his 32-year career as a Leader of the opposition.