Monday 22 September 2008


A very full - and interesting day. Aftera two mile walk from my accommodation into the Conference Centre, I arrived just in time for the start of "European Question Time". Breakfast was provided. Chaired by Baroness Ashton, the Leader of the House of Lords, subjects ranged from campaigning, to social policy and to international security.

The plenary session had already begun by the time I'd got across to the conference hall itself. However my stay there was short - as I joined a small group of parliamentarians for a tour of the Labour History Archive and Study Centre of the People's History Museum. The building itself is of great historical significance for the Labour Movement - in 1868 the Trades Union Congress (TUC) had its first meeting there. The tour was fascinating and I saw the original handwritten minutes of the first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (12th February 1906, letters from Eric Blair [George Orwell]; Charlie Chaplin - and a handwritten letter from a young Tony Blair to the Labour leader of the time, Michael Foot. There was a fantastic collection of political posters and some banners. The People's History Museum is currently closed for redevelopment - but it has so many items of interest, that I would strongly recommend a visit when it reopens. Details of the Museum and the archive are available at

I returned to the conference hall to hear the speech by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At lunch time I went to a debate organised by the Guardian - on who was Labour's Greatest Hero. Keir Hardie; Clement Attlee; Nye Bevan and Barbara Castle were the four nominees. It was enjoyable and interesting. A full report is expected soon on http://www.guardian.co.uk/

In the afternoon session we heard speeches from Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Defence Secretry, Des Browne. I sought to participate in the debate - with a speech on the need for Britain to work with fellow EU members; the United States and other countries to advance both Britain's and the world's interests. However time ran out and I wasn't called. The afternoon concluded with tributes to, and speeches by two retiring Members of the European Parliament - EPLP Leader Gary Titley and Glenys Kinnock.

Tonight I briefly attended a reception put on by my union branch - the UNITE T&G Parliamentary Branch http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/tgwu/default.asp. I then went to a Hansard Society/Channel 4 event entitled "People Like Us: is British society fairly reflected in parliament? This was recorded and a podcast is planned which will appear on the Hansard Society website - http://www.hansard-society.org.uk/

I enjoyed a visit to the Labour Friends of India reception; then went to a packed meeting entitled "American Election Update". The level of interest was obvious - and we were treated to some useful insights into this enthralling election.

By the time I got back to my accommodation it was nearly midnight - and now I'm off to bed - and another busy day, which will include Gordon Brown's speech.