Sunday, 21 September 2008

Labour Conference - Day One

Lie of the land

Two conversations on the train south to the Labour party conference in Manchester on Saturday. The first with a blunt engineer on his way back to Newcastle with his dog, Maximilian. He thought Gordon Brown might as well give up now. I can’t do the Geordie accent in print but he said: “You’ve got to feel sorry for him, but if ye can’t do the job ye might as well get out of the way for someone who can.”

On the Trans-Pennine express I spoke to two elderly widows who’d become experts at swapping electricity suppliers. “You have to do more maths than a university professor but it’s worth it,” said one. Get Age Concern to do the sums for you was the advice from her friend. They felt sorry for Gordon too.


Diverting journey

My journey south from Edinburgh might have been a long but not as diverting as one of my fellow islanders who was also at the launch of the new Gaelic channel, BBC ALBA, on Friday night.

Waking late in his Edinburgh hotel Calum Iain MacLeod dashed to Haymarket station to catch the first train to Glasgow that would connect with his flight to Stornoway. A robust figure, he jumped the barrier to get the next departing train. It was only when he was buying a ticket aboard that he was told the next stop was Carlisle.


Star struck

Spotted early on Sunday morning Sol Campbell, England internationalist and Portsmouth captain, in my hotel foyer. Wow - he has presence that strikes you down from 45 yards out and obviously drew the attention of Kate Hoey, the tricky former Sports Minister, who sidled up next to him.

Next I see Gordon Brown, with eight security guards outflanking him and Sue Nye, on the way to the GMex conference centre. Somehow, even in the sunshine, he didn’t exude just quite the same level of star quality.


Maybe Gordon had just seen the Glenrothes opinion poll that puts Labour and the SNP neck and neck for the by-election - both on 43% with a 14 per cent swing to the SNP. Very soon, someone is going to have to give Gordon Brown a road map and directions to the seat.

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