Look At It This Way - September 26, 2014

Jacqui Morley at the Labour conference
Jacqui Morley at the Labour conference
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It’s all over bar the screaming...at the likelihood of being dragged into yet another war.

I’ve been to my first Labour Party Conference as a delegate.

I covered it for many years in Blackpool. Remember Blackpool, Labour? The town your national assembly left behind?Well, we’re back. Not that we ever really went away.

While negotiating roadworks, diversions, “we are open” signs, and endless food or loo queues, I learned Blackpool had outshone Brighton as the UK’s most popular beach destination in research by online agency Expedia.

Bookings up 76 per cent on last year’s. I gloated as I passed the Brighton stand in the exhibitors’ hall. Brighton hosts Labour next year. I’d have loved to see Blackpool’s Back banners outside.

It’s a shame Brighton’s in the south because we’d beat it hands down in the north.

Instead we’re up against Manchester – and all those premier league hotels within an Eccles cake throw of the conference centre. Wonder what wages are like in the city? One delegate spoke of a £2k a night hotel paying £5 an hour to some staff.

If the minimum wage rises to £8, we in Blackpool know agencies will bus workers in to slave for a pittance.

Manchester’s our Waterloo. For starters they’ve got Peterloo. Couldn’t escape if we wanted to...

They’ve got the Lion King too. A choir sang Hakuna Matata ahead of Ed’s speech. We had Mamma Mia! Money Money Money might have helped with the deficit.

I took egg and bacon rock to the conference. Not to eat or encourage the over-consumption of confectionery by the eye candy shadow health minister, but to catch the attention of the chairman. This was very much a woman’s conference – even if all the cameras were trained on the two Eds (Miliband and Balls) while Margaret Beckett talked of distraction politics.

I wanted to talk about fracking. My speech was written on the back of the Conference Arrangement Committee’s rejection of my constituency party’s call for investment in viable renewables over shale gas. Sadly, Caroline Flint had the energy and climate change floor to herself.

Not that I needed debate to be stifled. I became petrified once placed in the second row opposite those in charge. My sweaty palms caused the eggs in my rock to melt over the notes I’d scrawled in bed at 6am.

I fled to the fringe and policy meetings instead.

I liked Ed’s speech – and the fact he opened by referring to Alan Henning, the Salford taxi driver who may well have brought delegates to the conference in years gone by.

I enjoyed the conference, but missed the sauce and swagger of the old Blackpool conferences.

Old school firebrand MP Dennis Skinner, 82, was a joy to meet. He won’t even use emails as it “puts postmen out of work.”

Neil and Glenys Kinnock were in front of me for the Leader’s speech, affable Lord Cashman one side, brooding Stephen Tompkinson the other.

I told Neil how we’d ended up in The Gazette’s Lost Archives, he and I, pictured with two Press Gang members I took to meet him as Education Secretary. They’d have made mincemeat of Nick Clegg.

“Blackpool,” he mused. “Good days. Great nights. Rough mornings, I can tell you.”

So can I. Just look at that pudding bowl hair and face!

Farewell to the post office as we know it

The services offered by our local post office look like shifting to a general food, booze and news store nearby in the not-too-distant future.

Locals are being invited to have their say on the proposal. I suspect it’s the usual tokenistic consultation process.

It’s handy if you want to buy milk while you collect your pension, or sausages with your stamps, but I lament the loss of traditional post offices.

They used to be community centres. Pensioners who seldom got the chance to talk from one week to the next could have a natter in the queue.

Staff who knew other people’s routines better than their own would worry if customers didn’t turn up.

A far more extensive range of services used to be available there once. Like cheque books and car tax discs, they seem to have had their day.

Post offices were run by sensible, stable, public spirited and courageous people.

And what they offered couldn’t have been more systematically run down.

Relocation isn’t loss of service, but it closes yet another traditional outlet. It’s the packaging of a post office that makes it rather special.