How big has the Labour conference been this year? With the party looking to form a government next May this was the last chance for the usual retinue of lobbyists and influence peddlers to ply their trade to shadow ministers who just might be making actual decisions in a few months’ time.
Certainly the ring of steel surrounding the conference centre here in Manchester seemed smaller than in recent years and the security was noticeably less oppressive.
But how do you measure the size of a conference and whether you’re attracting the movers and shakers? Square footage of steel fencing? Numbers queuing at the Midland Hotel bar?
“Young women” says a journalist at one of the better newspapers. “That’s how you tell if you’re winning, how many young women are attending.”
Metaphor of the week: Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh, describing buses as a “Cinderella service”. But didn’t Cinders prefer to travel by coach and horse?
Conference hall Kremlinology. Former Countryfile presenter, Miriam O’Reilly, who successfully sued the BBC over ageism, was in action on Tuesday, chairing a session of conference.
A favourite of Harriet Harman, O’Reilly was shortlisted for the Heywood and Middleton by-election, despite having no obvious connection to the area. This led to a peasants’ revolt against and an effort to back eventual winner Liz McInnes.
But O’Reilly is nothing if not tenacious and her appearance on the platform guarantees we haven’t seen the last of her.
One of the undoubted benefits of holding political conferences in cities is the range of pubs and restaurants available.
One of the downsides is that delegates disperse to the four winds leaving many evening fringe events and the main conference hotel bars half empty – until they return in the wee small hours because its the only place left open.
Welcome competition this year came from a food and drink festival in St Peter’s Square which became a favourite of conference-goers.
And the top tipple for a party once committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament and slashing defence spending? ’13 Guns.’
Who says Labour can’t identify any cuts. Over at the New Statesman, the enterprising Harry Lambert has calculated that frontbench speeches were on average just 1,200 words long, with rumours of a word count to corral any windy shadow ministers.
Tough on boilerplate rhetoric, tough on the cause of boilerplate rhetoric? We approve.