Day 4, the final day. The day where everything comes together. The day that we wrap up an amazing conference and return to all corners of the United Kingdom. The day that did not happen for me. When I went back to my room on Tuesday night my neck had completely given out and was in agony. As the pain was strong and constant, I had to ask my wife to drive for an hour at midnight, come and pick me up and drive me back. Thank god I am newly married to a wife that loves me!
I spent the day on the sofa, stuck to the BBC Parliament channel, the only time in my life that I watched that channel for more than 30 minutes. I may or may not have watched PMQs on it. Having been at the conference the last three days, the experience was not that different than within the conference hall. Since I was a member and confined to the outer reaches of the balcony, I was watching the speakers deliver their speeches as much as I was watching the two screens above them. Watching the speakers on TV is not that different, you are only missing the vibe of the room as well as the distractions around you.
The final day was surprising in that considering it was the final day and the day after the Leader's speech, one would expect that things would slow down and everyone would be eager to wrap up and go home. Not so! There were a number of speakers and a number of great speeches. And it started with Labour's candidate for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The issue of housing is strongly felt in the south and London in particular, it came as no surprise that this formed the central theme of Sadiq's speech.
Then came Lord Falconer. His speech was yet another example to demonstrate experience matters. He hit the nail on the head with the government's cuts in legal aid and he voiced out loud what everyone else has been thinking about: the nasty party is back.
Andy Burnham's speech was another highlight of the day. Having lost the leadership election, his self-depreciating start was refreshing and he made a good, light work of him coming second. Andy espouses what I was hoping to see across the board from the Labour MPs. He understands that there has been a shift in politics in the Labour party and the party itself at its base has changed. He will make a big difference as Home Secretary. He, definitely, deserved the standing ovation he got.
The highlight of the day though was undoubtedly Tom Watson's speech. He was the favourite to be Deputy Leader and he showed why. His speech was characterised by energy, passion, strength of conviction and belief. His message delivered what I was expecting at some point during the four days of the conference. An appeal to the middle class and the small businesses that form the backbone of the economy and our local societies. His speech may be accused of not being the kind politics that Jeremy advocates but it was certainly honest.
Overall, the conference was a great experience. It had its positives and its negatives. It was obvious that the upper echelons of the Labour party have not fully comprehended what has happened. In comparison to the overall trend of declining political membership across the spectrum in the West, the Labour party is on course to have yet again 1 million members. Jeremy Corbyn's speech, alone, convinced 2200 new members to join the Labour party. Yet, there is a number of MPs unhappy with the direction the party is taking. A direction that takes the party back to its grass roots. People were negative or bitter about the fact that the electorate did not vote as they hoped they would. Jeremy was supported by only 10% of MPs and it was felt during the conference. I doubt anyone is comprehending that should Jeremy fail to reach the elections or if he is ousted from Party Leader, this will be the schism and the death of the Labour party. The lesson of the general election is lost on some; that you cannot preach or tell the electorate what to do. You either convince them or you do not.
On the other hand, the message of unity permeated the conference. The new Shadow cabinet has made an unequivocal appeal for unity by multiple shadow ministers. Labour can only win the election as a united party. Jeremy, true to his style, personality, roots and history is allowing and enabling debate to happen that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would only have nightmares of. Politics are changing and having different opinions voiced is a sign of a healthy, modern, political debate. The new kinder, straight-talking, honest politics are here and they are here to stay.