Sunday 21 September 2008

Super Sunday on the fringe

If Sky Sports will be hyping up Europe’s (fading) Ryder Cup chances and a football match between Chelsea and Manchester United, the must-see political match-ups on the Manchester fringe have no reason to fear the competitition.

The Fabian highlights ...

David Miliband will give a Fabian lecture: ‘Can Foreign Policy be a Labour Strength?’ The Foreign Secretary, who has seven or eight minutes in the main conference hall tomorrow, will get to make a fuller argument on the fringe. I haven’t seen what he is going to say, but we are expecting a lot of interest in foreign policy today. (For time and venue, see official fringe guide – not announced here for security reasons - but delegates should turn up early and media need to register).

At 6pm (Town Hall), our theme is ‘Can Hope Win? Lessons from America’ with David Lammy, friend of Barack Obama and yet officially ‘neutral’ in the whole campaign thing; Bill Bernard of Democrats Abroad (officially not neutral), Stryker McGuire of Newsweek, Peter Kellner of YouGov and Rushanara Ali.

At 7.30pm (Town Hall), Gaby Hinsliff chairs a Fabian/Observer Question Time with Ed Balls, Jon Cruddas, Fraser Nelson of the Spectator, Zoe Williams of The Guardan and myself. We called it ‘the election starts here’. We meant the General Election at the time.

Then there’s the Young Fabian party (7.30pm – 11pm; One Central Street, details) and our Fabian party on top of that.

Elsewhere, there’s a chance to find out how many uber-modernisers you can you fit into a marquee. The conference mood among delegates is very largely loyalist but tonight’s Progress Rally (Banqueting Room, Manchester Town Hall) will be a focal point for most of those loudly whispering (to anybody who will listen that) though nothing may happen this week, we should watch out when Parliament returns on October 6th, or after November's by-election, or maybe next Spring instead.

Peter Mandelson and Alan Milburn are among the star attractions at a fringe which will platform many more Cabinet ministers than you could shake a stick at, including John Hutton, Hazel Blears, David Miliband, James Purnell, Andy Burnham

Ed Miliband and John Denham provide a little loyal-to-the-leadership cover: they will be in a very small minority of those who were at the Compass Rally (theme: the end of capitalism - and a plague on the plotters) last night and will be at Progress event (even newer, ever bolder New Labour forever) tonight.

That sounds like the makings of a unity ticket to me.

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