Conference diary

Having been described as “the real deputy prime minister” when he was serving Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell has always appeared content not to follow in his boss’ footsteps and take up a place on Westminster’s green benches.

But at a fringe meeting on behalf of charity Addiction Dependency Solutions at the Royal Exchange Theatre the other night he didn’t rule out doing so in future.

The king of spin also revealed local party panjandrums urged him to stand for the London Mayoral nomination last time around before it became a face-off between Ken and Oona King.

Are we going to see Campbell take the plunge next time? As a lifelong devotee of its football team, who better to take the marginal Burnley seat from Lib Dem incumbent, self-syled “Mr Burnley” Gordon Birtwistle?


Someone who is running for the Labour nomination for London mayor is Christian Wolmar. The doyenne of transport journalists (ok, struggling to think of any others) has recently launched his bid and has been wasting no time putting himself around the conference fringe.

He was in action at the Pragmatic Radicalism fringe meeting on Monday night where speakers had 90 seconds to pitch a policy idea before taking questions from the floor in a lively session chaired by the Guardian’s veteran political commentator Michael White.

Wolmar’s call for “a visionary transport system for London” faced questioning from the merry crowd in the Lass O’Gowrie pub, but frustrated by some wag asking a daft question he batted it aside.

“That is not what you do” advised White. “You take the idiot question and you love it to death!”


There have been precious few Thick of It moments in what has been a largely well-run and successful conference.

But there was a rumour doing the rounds of the conference bar last night that, if it came to pass, would truly take us deep into parody territory.

A reliable source confides that there’s a plan to modernise the annual recital of The Red Flag which traditionally closes conference on Thursday morning, with…a rapped version.

There have been previous efforts to ‘modernise’ the occasion in the past, with sopranos warbling about raising the scarlet standard high, but this would, it is fair to say, be something of a radical departure.

Is that low rumble outside the conference centre caused by Manchester’s trams, or is Red Flag lyricist “MC” Jim Connell reverberating in his grave?

Will someone please confirm it ain’t so?

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