It’s a tale of political intrigue and Tory infiltrators. Yes the Labour Party has brought its conference bandwagon into town.
For the council-owned Arena and Conference Centre it’s their biggest test so far and much will ride on its success.
Some may think Ed Milliband would have
an easier task convincing the parole board
of Labour’s innocence, rather than our
nation of middle Englanders
Mingling with the Labour faithful is a group of “spies” from the Conservative Party. They’re not here to eavesdrop on the debates on the floor of the conference hall. They are far too arrogant for that, believing, as Tories tend to, that they know everything already.
The purpose of their expedition into a Labour heartland is to sus out the arena as a future conference venue. Would David Cameron bring his show to Liverpool, a city that waved goodbye to its last Tory MP a generation ago and has not had a single councillor in the town hall so far this century?
Which explains why at the Kings Dock ACC – one of the stands is from Manchester City Council.
They’ve already bagged Labour for next year so are here in Liverpool to talk about big offers at the other end of the M62.
Yesterday, ACC big chief Bob Prattey wandered around the place, keeping a watchful eye on the first day, and he seemed well satisfied.
Southport Lib Dem MP John Pugh has already compared his party’s conference in Birmingham this year to the one that took place in 2010 in Liverpool. The outright winner, in his book, was Liverpool, for facilities, friendliness and compactness. There’s already talk of Nick Clegg returning in a couple of years.
The big unanswered question for me is how do the big-wigs, including David Milliband who made a flying visit to Liverpool for just one meeting, get past the tank-traps and massive security cordon? The likes of me and the majority of the lower orders attending the event have to be screened, check-outed and frisked. I somehow couldn’t imagine Harriett Harman being given a good frisking.
The VIPs just seem to emerge as though they have entered Harry Potter style through gate number nine and three quarters.
Joe Anderson gave a well received welcoming speech, waving a Ken-for-London poster, and talking about the way Liverpool had been robbed by the Coalition government. The renaissance we have witnessed in Liverpool over the past decade was all down to a generous Labour Government, he said; messages earning generous applause.
Before Anderson took to the rostrum there was a welcoming Oscars-style film clip from city comic John Bishop.
David Milliband: Quick in and
out jobWith a sun-soaked, tropical beach background, Bishop explained he couldn’t be at the arena as he was sunning himself over the river at New Brighton. I guessed most of the delegates would have heard of Brighton, the one time darling of the big political conferences. But New Brighton? Where’s dat den?
The Bish threw in a joke about delegates being ripped off for the price of their hotel rooms. It got a laugh, but was something referred to in a Guardian sketch piece as well.
As Walton MP Steve Rotheram pointed out to me, it’s the same with all the conferences, wherever they are held. The old rule of supply and demand is triggered, and when the demand for B&B is heavy, it’s reflected in the cost. Seemingly, but I still bet there are bargains to be had in Liverpool.
Liverpool 2011 will go down as the year Ed Milliband punched his weight and won more support from the British public.
Many have tried and convicted Labour for the economic doldrums we are in, indeed, some may think Ed Milliband would have an easier task convincing the parole board of Labour’s innocence, rather than middle Englanders.
Labour’s conference HQ is Jury’s Inn, which conveniently sits within the security zone. If the hotel changes its name on Thursday to Jury’s Out, Ed Milliband will have some thinking to do.
The Labour Party last held its conference in Liverpool in 1925, the year party stalwart Tony Benn was born. Though in 1934 and again in 1939 it was up the road in Southport.
More than 500 fringe meetings are being staged in Liverpool, featuring speakers such as Luciana Berger, the Eagle twins Angela and Maria, and even Mike Storey, one time Lib Dem leader of Liverpool City Council and now a life peer.
Around 2,000 journalists are at the conference, and, from the size of the media centre, it seems most of them are from the BBC.