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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 13:35 GMT
Conference cuppa dissent brewing
Guto Thomas
By Guto Thomas
BBC Wales political correspondent

Tony Blair thanks the conference in Llandudno after his speech
Taking a bow - Tony Blair after his speech
Friday, 23 February

Mystery surrounds the disappearance of over 100 chairs from the main auditorium of Labour's conference.

Overnight, and ahead of Tony Blair's farewell speech, the number of seats for delegates appeared to have been reduced from 660 to just 500.

Fortunately, however, even during Mr Blair's keynote 31-minute address, there were still plenty of seats available.

Good news for Tony Blair. The early congestion of delegates had cleared by the time he arrived at Venue Cymru in Llandudno to deliver his speech.

And there's good news too for delegates. Because as soon as Mr Blair leaves then their rights of access are likely to be dramatically eased.

Discontent was brewing among delegates here this morning and not just over the stringent security measures.

The real issue here today is the lack of tea, coffee or biscuits.

Despite the conference taking place in brand new facilities, access to the cafe and restaurant had been closed off.

Yes, you guessed it, because of security.

The only way to get a fresh cuppa was by leaving the building and then subjecting yourself to the whole rigmarole of the security checks all over again.

Now a coffee bar has opened its shutters to desperate delegates. Things are looking up.

This year's Welsh Labour conference almost failed to start at all.

The opening address was scheduled to start at 0915 GMT followed by a welcoming speech by the local Labour AM Denise Idris Jones.

But the party's failure to provide photographs on conference passes caused huge security problems as North Wales Police officers dutifully demanded to see second forms of ID.

This created a backlog along Llandudno's promenade as delegates - fresh from the previous evening's festivities - had to wait their turn.

Among them was Denise IJ. Despite the fact that her photo takes pride of place in the glossy conference guide, her inability to provide a passport, driving licence or other form of photo ID delayed her arrival.

This was compounded by her necklace which set off the airport-style security scanners. She did make it in safely, however, and the conference finally kicked off its business half an hour late.

So who's to blame? Surely not Welsh Labour. But it was the police, according to the chair of the standing orders committee, Mike Jeffries.

This all augurs well for a memorable conference.

Discontent seems to be an early theme at this conference. Upon arrival delegates were all handed a leaflet by a "rank-and-file activists' network" called Welsh Labour Grassroots. However, it's not known whether Tony Blair received a copy when he swept into town.

Should he read it, however he maybe shocked to read that this group - which will have the senior Labour AM Sue Essex as a fringe speaker later - doesn't regard Mr Blair as an asset. Quite the contrary in fact.

They claim that Blairism fails to deal with social justice as anything more than a soundbite and that the "illegal war of plunder in Iraq" and the cash-for-honours scandal are brining the Labour Party into disrepute.

They also claim that "Blair's unhinged foreign policy, his attacks on the public sector, his very presence in Downing Street, are our biggest vote losers. He has to go NOW before he does any more damage".

What a welcome!

Wales@Westminster newslog
21 Sep 06 |  Wales politics

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