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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 10:41 GMT
North East and Cumbria: Labour sages?
Darren Taylor
Politics Show, BBC North East and Cumbria

The Sage Gateshead
The Sage Gateshead will host most the conference

Unless you have been on the Moon you cannot fail to have heard the news, or seen the banner headlines. Yes, the Labour Party is coming to town. Gateshead to be precise.

... And, if you believe the newspapers, it has created something of a brouhaha.

There have been tales about how much it will cost to police the event: up to 3m if you believe some reports

Complaints about the upheaval Tyneside faces:

  • the Swing Bridge and some roads will be closed

Details of who faces what:

  • Tony Blair and his Cabinet potentially gazing from the panoramic windows of The Sage Gateshead on to a sea of protesting faces

So, why all the fuss? Well this is Labour's first conference here in living memory.

It might be that they have never been here at all but there is a hazy memory among some that in the dim and distant past (probably around the time the party was sent up) that they did put in an appearance on Tyneside.

Many believe the "Spring do" will not be as eventful as the autumn 2004 conference in Brighton.

Tony Blair
Will Mr Blair be grilled or lauded?


With an election forecast for May 2005, this could be one place where Labour sets out its election stall.

It will be at The Sage Gateshead that 1,500 delegates will hear key policy speeches from the party's stars.

In turn the leadership can gauge the opinion of the faithful.

Tony Blair is heading the line up which will be a home-coming for many of the party's more senior members.

In fact rather than stay at one of the heavily booked nearby hotels, they may do just as well by popping home for the night.

But perhaps the expected 4,000 countryside campaigners who will be thronging onto the Newcastle side of the river (they will not be able to get much closer than that to The Sage, bearing in mind there will be a huge security cordon around the building) will ensure the weekend is a lively one.

Police on jet-skis
Police say the jet-skis will give them more flexibility

Regional benefit?

Of course, the party's presence is already being felt - not just in those pre-booked hotel rooms but in the dining reservations, the train tickets, the taxi fares and the souvenirs the delegates will be spending their money on.

The party itself reckons delegates will bring around 3m to the region.

There are inevitably some downsides though for those living and working close to the conference venue with office staff nearby already being vetted by the police.

Anyone wanting to get close the building will have to go through airport-style security checks.

That will include the Politics Show which this weekend will come live from The Sage.

Richard Moss will be talking to one of the key players while Mary Askew will get a glimpse inside the venue itself and talking to those who are perhaps less than happy with the Labour government, let alone its decision to hold its spring fling here.

And did I mention the two 1200cc jet skis Northumbria Police have bought to patrol the Tyne during the conference?

Politics Show

That is the Politics Show, Sunday, 13 February, at 12.20pm with Richard Moss and Mary Askew.

Some of our viewers commented...

Mr Austin, Scottish Borders: "I listened with disbelief to the Liberal Democrats policy on law and order. Dear oh dear. They won't get a vote out of me"

Anon: "I don't think Alan Milburn blinked once during the interview and what does that say?"

Bernadette Bell: "Tony Blair is backstabbing. His policies stink. The sooner he gets out the better."

Anon: "You're the Blair Broadcasting Corporation and you're terrified of them."

Jean Hutchinson, Washington: "I've always been a Labour voter and I say to Blair and Milburn, keep up the good work. Alan Milburn is becoming a second Tony Blair."

Councillor Jackie Elder, Middlesbrough: "When are you going to have the real minority parties on? I think we have a good chance of picking up votes."

James Hamilton: "I would ask Milburn what's happened to our ship building industry. He's reduced this country to a place of pubs and clubs, where's the manufacturing industry?"

Christine Ross, Gateshead: "I'm disturbed how Labour has run the health service lately. I feel strongly how we're being dictated to by Blair as to what I can and can't do."

Audrey Hardy, Sunderland: "I'm appalled that we've heard no dissent from any MPs or demonstrators about house arrest. We don't realise what a threat this is to democracy."

Mrs Payne, Newton Aycliffe: "I'm yet to see what the Labour government has done for me."

Mrs Charlton, Hexham: "I voted Labour last time but not this time."

Cliff, Orr, Jarrow: "This government has made six pledges but no mention of pensioners. We're worse off every year and this government's doing nothing to help us."

David Morgan, Newcastle: "My council tax is so high to pay for Blair and co to stay in the Hilton Hotel and have his boys in blue protect him."

Robin Young: "New Labour are brilliant at getting publicity. A pity then they spend so much energy on negative campaigning."

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07 Jan 04 |  Politics Show
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12 Sep 03 |  Politics

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