Day 3 is the big day. The Leader's speech, the event everyone is waiting for. The leader of the biggest party in Britain speaking. The leader that was elected by a bigger mandate than Tony Blair, the leader that was elected by more members that all the Lib Dem and Green members put together!
I started my day relatively late. I was disappointed a breakfast organised by Hilary Benn regarding the Leader's speech was sold out. Hilary is an excellent speaker and is worth listening to him if you get the chance. I have seen him twice and both times he was excellent. I know I am repeating myself, but anyone who quotes Life of Brian can only be good!
I started making my way in yet another sunny day. Since I was quite late this morning and my stiff neck was persisting and hurting, the bus was my friend and I arrived on the conference centre about 10am. The anticipation and excitement on the air of the conference floor were palpable. Everything felt slightly muted. Everyone knew what was about to take place and the quiet anticipation was overwhelming.
I finally found out the story about tickets to the Leader's event. I went to the conference services where I asked for a ticket and they gave me one. They said though that they were pointless as everyone will simply queue to get in so I was advised better start queueing up early. How early I asked in my naivety; they said about 10-11am. Surely that is too early, I retorted! It was a very busy conference they replied.
Indeed, that was true. When I walked into the conference balcony (mere mortal members are on the balcony, staff, delegates and other peeps are on the floor) at 10:15am, there was one young lady sitting by the door queueing for the Leader's speech. I became slightly disoriented thinking this is an iPhone launch but alas, this was a queue 4 hours before the speech for the Leader of the Opposition otherwise known as the threat to national security.
Having had an internal heated debate in my mind on the benefits of queueing or watching the conference, the latter camp won. I attended the whole conference in the morning. I have to apologise to Lisa Nandy, Shadow Energy Secretary, Lilian Greenwood, Shadow Transport Secretary, Kerry McCarthy, Shadow Environment Secretary (also known as Labour's Vegan threat to the national security of farming) and John Healey, Shadow Housing Minister. I attended your speeches but I do not remember much, you were in the day of the Leader's speech and everything else is overshadowed! It is worth pointing that housing is so important to Labour that they appointed a Shadow Housing Minister, a position that does not exist in government currently.
As the morning event was closing I left after the last speech and just before the voting. I decided to go queue. Stopped quickly to grab a rogan josh from the conference to eat for lunch and then tried to find the end of the queue. The queue was going down 4 flights of stairs and then out of the conference centre. No way I would queue that much. Thankfully, there were two entrances to the balcony and I went a found the other queue that was only 4 flights of stairs and about 50 yards long.
In anticipation of the queueing, I had bought a book. I didn't need it in the end as 3 councillors from Hackney kept me company throughout. Thank you guys. Finally the queue started moving after 80 minutes. The queue was moving! Unfortunately the queue stopped for 2 minutes a few meters away from the balcony door. Oh the teasing! I did get in though and found a seat right in the middle of the conference centre next to possibly the tallest and biggest delegate of the conference. Slightly uncomfortable sitting but all must make sacrifices, however small.
The conference was packed, everyone was coming in and a pin could not be dropped. Then the speech began.
I have never been to an event like that. I am glad I can now say I was there. As Jeremy came in, a standing ovation took place for a few minutes. Here is a person that was thrust in power representing the hopes, beliefs and dreams of hundreds of thousands. Then the speech began.
It was a somber speech, an authentic speech, a brave speech, an elegant speech, a speech that addressed a disillusioned political electorate. It had jokes. It addressed a number of myths. It challenged the media. It offered an alternative. It was a speech of hope. A political speech that said things can, should and must be better. No one should accept the status quo as good enough and that things don't change. It electrified the audience. The audience gave a standing ovation multiple times throughout the speech and clapped even more times. It was a speech that will be remembered as the start of everything. When it was finished, everyone was slightly stunned. It was a marked change from what came previously.
It was time for the evening fringe events. Since the event I wanted to attend started at 5:30, I had 90 minutes to spare after the speech. I had tea with a number of delegates that could be described as right of the left of the centre. The feedback was muted and it is obvious that some people are sceptical of what Jeremy advocates and wondered whether his stance will be considered naïve or whether it will actually make a difference. Fair point, fair challenge, it is down to all of us now to make it happen.
The rest of the evening passed relatively in a blur, overshadowed by my neck pain and the stiffness ever increasing. Slightly suffering I made my way to the first event. Slightly disappointing and hungry I made my way to the Human Rights discussion. Being hungry and not having any food there, I made my way to the high speed rail event across the corridor. I was lucky as there was plenty of food there as well as champagne. Thoroughly enjoying myself there, I listened to Lilian talking about HS2, not being able to turn my neck.
I visited a few more events, nothing special or worth mentioning until 8pm where the fringe I was waiting for the whole day started. How to campaign in tough election areas. It was the best fringe event of the whole conference. Packed in a tiny room with my neck throbbing from the pain, I was captivated by Siobhain McDonagh, Chris Matheson and a number of other MPs on how they turned conservative majorities with local active politics. Simply stunning and breathtaking event on how the efforts on the ground can win elections.
Being in agony over my neck pain, I made my way to the Arab meeting where my colleagues were. Jeremy was going there as well apparently and we entered the room together. He was quickly mobbed which allowed me to slip by and have some of the best food in the whole conference. I'll tell you: eating meat of skewers whilst having a stiff neck is difficult!
I decided enough pain was enough pain. I said goodbye to my fellow delegates from Guildford and slowly with careful movements entered a taxi home. I t was a great day and experience, overshadowed by pain. I will definitely be in Liverpool next year!