Saturday 20 September 2008

Conference? I haven't been yet!

So it begins. On the train to Manchester, I overheard a journalist asking a Labour member, "Were you inspired by the Conference or disillusioned?". She quite reasonably replied, "I haven't been yet!". Very sensible. With Labour trailing the Tories by 28%, the clever person makes no predictions about what will happen over the next few days. Here are my two.

There won't be a coup. In fact, talks of plots and beheadings will be put off until after Glenrothes. The plotters (can people plot without consulting each other?) are very clear about who they are against. They are less clear about who they are for, which lessens their appeal.

The Economist suggests that Labour is failing because it has lost discipline and intellectual confidence. But is discipline returning (for some, at least)? This week's Cabinet backing for Brown contrasts with the lack of mention of the PM in David Miliband's infamous Guardian article. And will the positive reaction to this week's US government intervention restore a faith in the state's power to regulate the economy? Maybe. Are we pulling back from the edge? Can we prove the Economist wrong?

Prediction two - Brown's speech will be much bolder than most expect. There will be no apologies for past mistakes, but neither will he play it conservative and safe. It will be more 'jobs for workers and Britishness' than 'jobs for British workers'. This doesn't come naturally to the PM - it's a sign of desparation. However, without such a bold intervention, the despair will only deepen.

Over-optimistic? Maybe. Will conference leave us inspired or disillusioned? Well, things can only get better.....

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