The Labour Conference: Stalking Ed Balls, vicious hangovers and chat shows
It is day three of the conference and I think I have gone Gonzo. This is not what I wanted. Forget William Burroughs, I am here trying to be the next Simon Hoggart. I just don’t think he would have sat through Ed Miliband’s leadership speech yesterday with a hangover so vicious he was genuinely worried he might interrupt the historic moment by bolting past camera crews to vomit. Being a political hack is much harder than it looks…
Despite my plans to make an 8.30am talk on internet blogging, I just manage to get to the conference centre by midday. Forget Edinburgh, this is beginning to feel like university. Ed Ball’s big speech has packed out the main hall and wins him a standing ovation. Then it is off to a talk about Philip Gould, former New Labour visionary and focus group evangelical who passed away this year.
Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell are there to talk about their old friend. Neil Kinnock is in the audience, it feels like an alpha male dream come true, I’m waiting for somebody to take out the power tools. Alastair’s body language is relaxed and expansive, confident in a rumpled slept in way. Peter is more tucked in. He reminds me a bit of former faded film star, sharing witty anecdotes on a 70s chat show. He and Alastair have impeccable comic timing, Peter rolls his eyebrows at just the right beat, Alastair takes laddish swipes at the current government, they should get their own chat show.
It’s only afterwards that I suspect tiredness is beginning to affect by behaviour when later, I spot Ed Balls in a hotel lobby and calmly decide to just follow him for a bit. I think I expected him to be whisked off into a waiting official car but he wasn’t. He just carried on walking down a side street with an assistant, a very normal situation except for the exhausted woman who is walking about two feet behind him, tailing him like the worst PI in history. What the hell am I doing? Even Andrew Neil wouldn’t do this.
It is just me, Ed Balls and an assistant walking down a deserted lane and we are much closer together than the laws of polite society dictate. Should I say hello or just stop and turn around? Which would be weirder? Panicking I start tweeting about the situation I’ve found myself, when distracted on my phone I just walk slap bang into the shadow chancellor. For a man claimed to be the bull dog of Brown’s chancellery, I have to say he was very polite about it all.
I have survived six Edinburghs in a row with the worst excesses that comedy in a boom time can throw at you, yet two days at a Labour conference, as the opposition party, and I feel like admitting defeat. Every evening there are at least six receptions with tables and tables of free wine, how is the entire House of Commons not dead yet? The night before Ed’s speech I attended the Irish Reception, the Reception for Charities, the Reception for Palestine and then it was onto the LabourList karaoke, then the hotel bars that never ever close.
I fear the image of Tom Watson is tattooed onto the retinas of my eyes, so tired am I of seeing him everywhere. It feels like a Jane Austen novel meets Trainspotting. After Ed’s speech and a power nap, I pop into The Friends of Pakistan reception for some food and then finish off the evening at The Friends of Israel, meekly sipping orange juice throughout. Then I turn down the challenge of gate-crashing the Co-Op party for an early night at 11pm. I arrive home feeling very virtuous; hangover and accidentally stalking the shadow Chancellor aside, maybe I can make it onto Newsnight after all?Tagged in: david ed miliband cameron, ed balls, ed miliband, Labour conference, Labour party conference
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