Bournemouth day 3: Making it Happen

It was such a long and full day yesterday that I’m just catching up on my notes now!

I had a busy morning of training, including the perennial issue of what candidates should wear.

There’s an old story about the (male) candidate who was invited to a National Farmers Union meeting, and turned up in a waxed jacket and cords, only to find a room full of business suits.

For women it’s even worse: more choice in what to wear means more chances to get it wrong. Plus women are judged more on their appearance than men; so it’s a minefield. But one for which we now have a map….

After lunch I had a session with Lorely Burt MP on post offices, and also swapped post office campaign tips with Mione Goldspink, an amazingly dedicated councillor from Hertfordshire, whom I’ve known on and off for twenty years.

Then it was time to ‘Make It Happen’. All good drama requires conflict, and both the media and some sections of the party have been talking up ‘Make it Happen’ as a war zone in the making.

And while the paper covers much more than tax alone, that was the focus of the debate. I’m someone from a ‘tax and spend’ tradition, but I’m very comfortable with the policy Nick outlined and the party has adopted.

I don’t see our tax stance as having gone a great ideological change; it’s an appropriate response to the way the world is and the needs people have. We still believe in public services funded by redistributive taxes – in fact our tax policy is now the most progressive of any of the main parties.

My colleague Meral Ece has written more on this here.

Neil Kinnock ditching Clause 4 may have been good for the 1980s Labour party, but it’s been bad for political commentary. Every leader is now scrutinised for their ‘Clause 4 moment’ where they seem to defeat their own party. It’s all nonsense of course – leaders have to take their parties with them, or who and what precisely are they leading?

I’ve experienced conference debates that were truly divisive and rancourous. This wasn’t one of them. Even sceptical Michael Crick admired the way we debated the issue. So those who are desperate for a Clegg Clause 4 will have to wait. Preferably indefinitely.

After the Vodaphone fringe (about which I blogged separately) it was off to the Sky dinner, where about twenty of us discussed ‘the current political landscape’ with Adam Boulton, Glen Oglaza and team. The following predictions were made by various bods:

Gordon Brown will go sooner rather than later
He will be succeeded as acting leader and interim PM by Jack Straw
Harriet Harman will win the ensuing Labour leadership
We will have a different PM in a year’s time
McCain will beat Obama
Cameron will have a Clause 4 moment (groan) over Europe.

We also talked about funding political parties: the view was put that peoplein the US are used to paying for everything, so it’s natural to pay for politics too. Our culture is different – and the present situation is a mess. Labour are vetoing plans for a block on very large donors because of the money they get from the unions. Conservatives are happy to go for a donation limit that limits unions but allows lots of rich individuals to fund parties, something that will benefit them.

Lib Dems would like to see tighter limits on election spending. Don’t hold your breath.

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