The Surreality of Conference

Conference is a surreal thing.

The  conference itself is pretty much the same every year. Lots of set-piece speeches leaked to the press before-hand, a bit of debate from the floor, and Len McCluskey telling the entire Labour movement that we’re all doing it wrong. C’est la guerre, year after year. With interchangeable Lens of course.

And the exhibitions change but either way I can harvest enough biros to last me the 12 months through to the next conference as well as the odd bit of interesting literature or even invite to a reception – the obvious aim of every conference is to get through it without buying any food or drink.

But it’s the evenings after conference which are surreal and fascinating. They’re an opportunity to catch up with old friends, a chance to make new friends and even to network your way to a better career if that’s your thing. Sat in the

conference hotel, ministers are happy to chat to anyone about policy, speeches, or just the gossip of the day. It’s a real opportunity to be heard, even if only for a while and through a mild haze of red wine.

But better still it’s a chance to interact with the political legends we grew up with. On Sunday night, I spent a very happy 20 minutes talking to Neil Kinnock about Nye Bevan. That might not sound that amazing, but Neil was a political hero of my youth and probably the world’s foremost living expert on our shared hero, Nye.

So it was a fascinating glimpse for me into the history of the Labour movement and the humanity of both Aneurin and Neil. Sadly, I had to end our chat. I needed to get to the RSPCA reception for my free beer and curry.

I’m sure Nye would understand.

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