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Labour Party Conference, Manchester: Sunday

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Labour Party Conference, Sunday, 30th September, 2012

I awoke to the news that the delightful Malcolm Wicks MP, aged 65, had passed away after struggling with cancer for over a year. The hurried obits spoke of his "saintliness" which was absolutely spot on. 

I briefly read the Sundays, packed and took the bus and then the tube to Euston where I met up with Jonathan Shaw, ex MP for Chatham & Aylesford, Roger Truelove, my former agent, and eventually Daisy, my daughter. Eventually, as she couldn't print her ticket off and then went to King's Cross, she made it with five minutes to spare! We were joined by Gywn Prosser, ex MP for Dover. 

Our trip to Manchester on Virgin Trains was uneventful and there were no begging bowls for Richard Branson or publicity sheets about how he has been robbed of the franchise. Trains should not have been privatised and have cost the British tax payer more in subsidies than when the service was owned by us all. I would create a not for profit organisation.

We caught up with Patricia Scotland at the taxi queue and swapped stories about Qatar and the WHO. I am staying at a Premier Inn in Salford and despite the adverts on television prices are absurd but this always happens at Conference where locals jack up their prices sometimes x 2.

I had lunch with Daisy at Tampopo in the Triangle Shopping Centre which was a delight and then we went our separate ways. I cleared security and bumped into Nick Robinson, BBC and we both agreed that the day of the large Conference away days is coming towards the end. The only thing that matters here is Ed Miliband's speech on Tuesday. Sure there's lots of other noise and it is good to meet up with old friends but to the media it is really only Tuesday that matters. 

I then saw quite quickly Andrew Marr but this time in hands free mode, then Adam Boulton but only to swap finger pointing and finally a longer chat with Michael Crick, C4, who told me to read  Damian McBride's blog. 
The exciting part of conference was like a ghost town as was the main hall. I had tea with my local branch members from Pimlico & St.James's where we chewed the cud. Finally and chatted with Lord Martin O'Neill, Tom Levitt and Brian Iddon, all former MPs.

The Fringe which used to be where Conference started and finished has been emasculated. Nonetheless, I was tempted by one entitled: Funding Our Universities, is Business the Answer which was badly chaired and dragged on and on. there were five speakers and the main one, Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Minister for HE, left immediately after she spoke. She should have spoken first and then taken Q&A. The rest of the panel were from a motley collection of universities - Bournemouth, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

I asked from the floor a range of thoughts and questions but the key one was you cannot start talking about reducing fees without first defining what the state wants from its university sector.

After this fringe event, I went onto the New Statesman party and Manchester Town Hall which is an architectural marvel which is just as well as the planners have surely wrecked the inner city boundaries. I met too many people to name though Carol Stone was as active as ever.

I retired to bed early to watch the Ryder Cup.

The rules of any conference are - Day 1 Home by 1130; Day 2 Home by 4.30am and Day 3 Go back home.


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