Friday, October 06, 2006

Labour Conference 2006

A belated entry following last week's Labour Conference! Overall I think it is fair to say that given the difficulties leading up to conference, it was a highly successful week for the Party, with the mantra of renewal and change on the progressive left being repeated by every speaker.

There were clearly some highlights in the main hall - Tony Blair's valedictory speech reminded everyone yet again of what a superb Leader he has been. Other parties may snipe and sneer about Tony Blair, but the election results he has delivered for the Labour Party are the true testament to his political skills. I thought that Gordon Brown gave an excellent speech which began to explain what his vision for Britain is. He is a politician of substance and has a real record of achievement. I think he will be a welcome contrast to David 'Blair-lite' Cameron.

Bill Clinton's speech on Wednesday morning was also a highlight. His warning to the party that change and progress are the only way forward was a welcome reminder as we consider the future leadership of the party.

And last but not least John Prescott's final speech as Deputy Leader was a real triumph! It is really difficult to imagine any of the current contenders for the Deputy Leadership putting together such a tub-thumping speech! "Traditional values in a modern setting" was once again the core message from Mr Prescott.

Prezza and the band

Away from the main Hall it was good to see John and Pauline Prescott dancing at the Amicus reception!

Peter & Pat Hewitt
And I took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Patricia Hewitt about the "cuts" to Southwark's PCT budget ahead of her meeting with Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman. She explained to me that the £21 million was effectively being used as a loan to the PCTs who had overspent and that they would be under an obligation to repay the money to Southwark. However, there remain real concerns in the short-term and I told the Health Secretary that it was wrong for Southwark to be penalised in any way for the profligacy of others.

Following the conference I have also written to Ruth Kelly about Southwark's appeal against her decision on the 'Downtown' planning application. I met Ruth Kelly at the conference but for obvious reasons we were not able to discuss the particular issues surrounding 'Downtown'. In my letter I have echoed the views of the campaigners, and asked that she visit the site in any event before making any further decision on this application.

I also met with Ken Livingstone and other London Labour Leaders to discuss the proposed GLA Bill which will give the Mayor increased powers in various areas. I think that this will be the start of a useful discussion with the Mayor.

So on the whole a productive conference!

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