I’m sitting in the lobby of the Midland hotel at the Labour Party conference, here in Manchester. The atmosphere is much more subdued than at previous Labour conferences I’ve been too. I was wondering why until – duh – the obvious fact struck me: these guys don’t matter any more. They’re out of power. At every conference since 1997, Labour brought with them all the buzz, money, crowds and excitement that comes with proximity to power. That’s all gone. Instead, there is the flattening realisation that the long slog of opposition is beginning.
Yesterday, Labour made its single most important decision about how it will conduct itself in opposition. It chose a new leader – Ed Miliband. I have to say, I think they made the wrong call. It’s not that he’s the “red Ed” of the tabloids’ imagination or bad at public presentation. About half an hour ago (its now eight pm), I saw the new leader give a short, fluent speech to a bunch of Labour youth activists in the lobby of the conference. He was impressive in his way. Relaxed, confident, charming, fluent, self-deprecating in the prescribed British manner. A little bland, but clearly able. Watching him I thought – “What an impressive young guy.” (He’s 40) But I didn’t think – “This man could be prime minister tomorrow.” Read more