Monthly Archives: September 2009

Jim Pickard

At last night’s Labour gala dinner in Brighton Lesley Garrett treated paying guests to a rendition of Andy Williams’ classic, The Impossible Dream. Lyrics include:

“And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.” Read more

A far cry from the heady days of 1997: Jim Pickard looks at the mood on the ground at this year’s Labour conference Read more

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown gets angry with Adam Boulton, calling him a “political propagandist”

Paul Waugh says the single-mother supervised homes policy is 10 years old. Read more

Jim Pickard

The rumour swilling around conference this morning is that the News International party last night was a rather strained affair; given that news broke of the Sun’s defection to the Tories half way through. Various cabinet ministers heard about the news as they were swigging Murdoch’s free beverages. Some observers later heard Lord Mandelson tell NI executives in no uncertain terms that they were out of line*. Apparently a c-word was used.  Mandelson has since insisted that the word in question was “chump”.

* The Sun’s move appears to have been timed for maximum political impact, just hours after Brown’s speech. The rumour is that new editor Dominic Mohan didn’t bother to tell GB (despite a phone conversation earlier yesterday) that the bombshell was primed. Mohan is not even here in Brighton. Meanwhile it’s interesting that the Scottish version of the Sun will not back the Conservatives. Read more

Jim Pickard

Jack Dromey, Labour Treasurer, has just revealed that JK Rowling – who has helped Labour in the past – is going to “support the party (financially) on a continuing basis”. No specific figure for how much she will give however.

For those who care, Will Straw has a “word cloud” which shows which words cropped up the most.

3.33 Well, that’s it folks. The prime minister has kissed his wife. The delegates are on their feet. They’ve been told that their “abiding duty” is to “stand, and fight, and win, and serve”. They’ve been shown the sunny uplands and been told to “never stop believing in the good sense of the British people”. Because the task is difficult “the triumph will be even greater”, he promises. It seems to have all gone down well in the hall.
 Read more

Jim Pickard

It is rare for a conference speech to win the praises of Matthew Engel, our political sketchwriter, whose shrewd observations are up there with the best of his trade.

But even he ponders this morning whether the prospect of PM for PM is now more likely after what was universally seen as a great speech yesterday by Lord Mandelson. “Yesterday morning I would have laughed in your face. Right now I am not quite so sure,” he says. Read more

Jim Pickard

It’s always struck me as a tad strange how the political winds blow behind certain individuals – and then shift direction within days. It wasn’t long ago that the entire Westminster bubble was discussing the idea of Alan Johnson (“the postie”, as he is described by some of Gordon Brown’s loyalists) as a future Labour leader. Now the winds appear to be behind Ed Miliband, after he was endorsed by Derek Simpson and a few others. There is often no rhyme or reason behind the shifts. One day’s hero is tomorrow’s zero – and vice versa. Is the younger Miliband really a rising star, or are you just repeating something you heard over coffee this morning? I’ve no idea.

Anyway, Charlie Bibby has captured this shot of Johnson’s speech at conference this morning. It speaks for itself. Read more

Labour is clearly sparing every expense in Brighton. The party is so cash-strapped that it has forced its staff to show solidarity and share hotel rooms. Oh the conference spirit!

No doubt, in decades to come, they will look back at slumming it with fond memories. But for now they are distinctly unimpressed. “It’s lucky our hours are so long that we don’t need a bed,” one moaned. Read more

Jim Pickard

I paused before writing a blog in defence of Gordon Brown this morning; regular readers will know it doesn’t happen so often.

But now Channel 4 have interviewed the man who wrote the original blog starting the allegations about Brown’s health. “I still have no more proof than anyone else,” the blogger tells Krishnan Guru-MurthyRead more

Jim Pickard

A classic photo (copyright Charlie Bibby) of Andrew Marr being harangued – or vice-versa – by Ian Austin, loyal Parliamentary ally to Gordon Brown. Could it be anything to do with yesterday’s interview?

Jim Pickard

From the Welch* twitter:

“Gordon Brown looks like a failing businessperson on way out a– “dead man walking”. It is sad to watch self confidence ooze out of anyone.” Read more

Jim Pickard

In the end it was a BBC interview which opened the floodgates; the newspapers were full of gleeful headlines this morning about Gordon Brown and whether or not he has been taking prescription drugs.

No matter that 10 Downing St has been denying it for weeks. Nor that there is no shred of public evidence to suggest that the prime minister has been using anti-depressants (as the rumour suggests). Read more

Jim Pickard

Denis Macshane, former Europe minister, says the Brighton conference reminds him of the sci-fi/horror film District 9, where aliens are treated badly at the hands of the human race. I presume that he’s referring to the press criticism of Gordon Brown and the Labour party.

“The prawns are badly treated and kicked around and all they want to do is get their star ship and escape,” explains Macshane. Read more

Jim Pickard

I was awoken at midnight on Friday night by an enraged Labour press officer who couldn’t believe my gall in reporting the fact that the party had only sold 330 tickets for its conference dinnerRead more

Jim Pickard

Tribune is running a news story claiming that Gordon Brown is preparing for a “massive climbdown” this weekend over the right of unions to vote on policy motions at conference.

You may remember that Brown in 2007 changed the rules so that votes at conference became merely symbolic. Unions could propose motions but not vote on them. “Now the motions enter the policy-making apparatus …basically the process means that they end up getting defused,” says one union source. The real policy business goes on behind closed doors; for example at the “Warwick” gatherings.

Here is Tribune’s story:

“This would overturn Mr Brown’s reform just after becoming leader which reduced debate to a discussion on “issues”, with a vote being replaced by reference to the policy-making National Policy Forum.

Mr Brown is reported to have thrown in the towel in the face of overwhelming pressure from the unions, but has won agreement to effect the change next year to avoid a row at the last conference before the next election.”

I’d not yet convinced that these “concessions” are entirely real. The union source tells me: “Every so often they dangle this carrot, ‘next conference it will be better, it will be different’”, he says.

In case you’re interested, here are the union motions “contemporary issues” for next week: Read more

Jim Pickard

Hillside (New Media) Ltd gave £100,000 to Labour on June 30 this year. As such you might want to know a bit more about who they are.

I called the company’s address in Stoke on Trent and spoke to a secretary who refused to say anything about the company or its directors. Read more

Jim Pickard

Mole sold stolen disc to Daily Telegraph because he was “angry over the government’s failure to equip the Armed Forces” – not for the enormous cheque.

Martin Wolf comes out as defender of Vince Cable’s unpopular mansions tax Read more

Jim Pickard

Michael Portillo, former darling of the Tory party*, is set to join a new advisory board at Portland, the PR firm**. In some ways it seems a shrewd move for founder Tim Allan, seen for a long while as a Blairite figure. Allan used to be a deputy to Alastair Campbell at 10 Downing Street. Read more