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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Labour conference diary
Sally Mulready
Mrs Mulready is making the case for Hackney
All eyes are on Tony Blair as he prepares to address Labour's annual rally in Brighton. But what about the ordinary Labour party members who make the pilgrimage to conference every year?

Hackney Councillor Sally Mulready won a ballot of local party members for her chance to attend Brighton. Here is her diary.


Saturday, 28 September

Arrived in Brighton for the conference. I won the right to be a delegate by just one vote and I promised myself I would be conscientious and attend all the debates (and stay away from the bar!)

Stood in a very long taxi queue just in front of the tribune editor Mark Seddon - a good looking man who reminded me of the advert man at C&A.

He had plenty to say and entertained the queue with his usual uncomplimentary remarks about Tony Blair and Mr Blair's lawyerish summing up at the most recent national executive meeting.

Shared a Taxi with Helen Jackson MP - a lovely person.

She had just come back from a parliamentary visit to South Africa. We exchanged news about Irish politics, and the progress in the north.

Helen was PPS to Peter Mandelson and, I think, Mo Mowlam. She is well informed about the issues.

Met up with all my Hackney Council colleagues at the London region reception.

The mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, looked relaxed and I have no doubt this will be a good conference for him.

The great leader (Mr Blair) walked in led by an army of minders, with the bright lights of the television cameras shining right in our faces. Such excitement.

Mr Blair came straight over to where I was standing with Jules, accompanied - or was it escorted - by Ken Livingstone, to chat about the closing down of crack dens in Hackney.

This was Jules' opportunity in a few seconds to tell the prime minister what progress was being made in Hackney.

I was pleasantly surprised when Mr Blair later mentioned Hackney in his speech at the all-delegates reception.

On to the bar, where over the course of the next three hours we met (home office minister) Hazel Blears and lobbied her to come to Hackney. She took our details, as they say.

Sunday, 27 September

Attended London region briefing for delegates.

The director said how pleased he was, and important it was to Labour in London, to have Ken Livingstone back.

Talked about Labour's achievements and the sense of urgency we need to have to win the next election.

I feel it in my bones that if we don't work hard enough on the election trail we could be in for a shock. I vowed that I must do more.

My daughter Nora came to Brighton today.

She is a member of the national policy forum and as we walked through conference centre I met her friends from Bristol.

She knew everyone and as we sat together in the conference hall I was so proud of her and her commitment to Labour. She is here for a few days.

Monday, 28 September

Monday's most important conference event was, of course, Gordon Brown's speech.

From the very moment he started, his humanity came through - his solidarity with the Bigley family in their agonising wait, his recognition of the awful dilemma for Tony Blair.

He rightly called on all of us to give Mr Blair our full support.

It was a weighty political speech, which will be analysed and dissected by the media on a mission of misinformation that has little connection with reality for the rest of us.

Some beautiful lines too in Gordon's speech: "more idealistic then ever", "more determined then ever before," "our duty to achieve for Britain".

And - speaking about voluntary workers and public sectors workers he described the ethic of public service at work as a "calling not just a career ".

Sometimes you have to really absorb just how much Labour has achieved.

It takes someone like Gordon Brown to tell us how.

He said no to renationalisation of the railways and yes to 22bn investment in schools and hospitals. Who would argue with that?

In the evening, I attended a Labour Party Irish Society function. Met the general secretary and deputy leader of the Irish labour party.

Had a very good chat about the relationship between the Irish and British Labour parties, the SDLP and of the campaign by some party members in the north to set up Labour Party branches in the north of Ireland, a topic I spoke about at last party conference.

Saw Gordon Brown for a fleeting minute at a party business reception. I got my moment!

Said I loved his speech, and was very touched by his description of public service workers. A very gracious man.

It was an inspiring day and I am looking forward to the leader's speech tomorrow.

I have heard all of them since 1997.

Wednesday, 29 September

The event of conference and of the week for me so far was attending the leader's speech.

I was there an hour before it started and got a really good seat and my daughter Nora got an even better one two rows from the front.

It was a great speech. Confident from the start... reminding us all of a fact we have almost come to take for granted that we're "facing the possibility unique in our 100 year history of governing Britain for a third successive term".

He then listed 10 things a third term Labour government could do - it was good detailed deliverable stuff on pensions, health, families, more City Academies, like the one in my borough in Hackney.

The interruptions from the floor distracted but no one was surprised, though people around me started to slow hand clap. I liked the sharp and humorous way Tony Blair reacted.

But the second protest from the odious fox hunters was nasty - after they were removed they left an personal alarm behind them which took a while to stop it and was quite an eyrie noise.

The passage on Iraq was clearly very difficult, very and quite an emotional part of the speech. He made many important points, but one that stood out was his justification for staying the course to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the speech the media swarmed around delegates looking for responses - most delegates I heard were very pleased, felt it had strong domestic policies and felt he had dealt well with Iraq.

But a few went on a rant, going from one TV camera to another. One of them sounded like a mouthpiece for Respect.

The newspapers continue to act as if they're on another planet, although the Guardian and Independent's coverage was very good.

I was sitting in the press room doing this diary , overhearing remarks and conversations - I think many of them wrote their scripts before Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's speeches and filled in essential bits afterwards to make it look authentic.





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