So conference is over. I’ve been home for a weekend, eating at regular times and not rushing all around Manchester to various fringe events. I am very much into the “comedown” stage of post-conference life. So what were the highlights? I’ve had a few days’ distance to think about this, and I’ve begun to put together a bit of a “best of” list:
- That speech. Yes, Ed Miliband’s leader’s speech. Undoubtedly the highlight of the week, and despite the scepticism of certain quarters, we could well see this as the turning point moment in his leadership. He was calm and confident, relaxed and likeable, and managed to do the whole thing without any notes. It was spectacular to behold.
- The emergence of a clear theme for Labour, as we head towards the next election. “One Nation” is not a new idea, but it is coherent and effective, and a clear counterpoint to the fractured and divided society that the Tories’ are creating in done sort of cynical divide-and-conquer strategy. It’s the clearest and most optimistic idea I’ve heard from Ed, and addresses my prior criticisms of the “predistribution” idea by couching it in understandable language.
- Meeting so many people who I have only known through a broadband connection. Around the converge in general, but also at the excellent Political Scrapbook tweetup. I don’t want to start listing names, as someone will doubtless get lost in the cloud which obscures my memory, but you are all awesome, and it was a particular joy to meet and endlessly discuss politics with Cllr Julian Ware-Lane. As For the tweetup, I remember as a particular highlight Tom Watson (yes, that Tom Watson) explaining to me the behind-the-scenes panicking at Labour HQ at the idea of Ed doing his speech without Autocue or notes. Apparently the scourge of Murdoch quelled the chaos, and told the Labour leader not to take any notice of it. Let Ed be Ed indeed.
- The sense of optimism. The Guardian rather unfairly described the atmosphere as flat, but my presiding sense was one of optimism. Living in an almost homogeneously blue bloc in the south east is disheartening sometimes, but meeting and talking to so many activists with so many stories from all across the country was encouraging. I feel utterly reinvigorated.
So where now? Well, in the long term, 2015 and a Labour government. But in the immediate term, there’s a by-election in Pinkneys Green ward in a few weeks, and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections soon after. Let’s start there. I’ll look for you all on the campaign battle-lines, comrades.