I report tonight from Manchester – a City, I discovered from Google Earth, to be in the North of England. The Labour Party annual smug fest is under way. Yesterday we had Alistair Darling, Chancellor, telling us things would be fine, provided the government cracked down on bankers running amok with bonuses. Today, Gordon Brown, not one of life’s natural orators, had his chance to tell us that he was getting on with the job.
If I expected to see back benchers skulking around in togas, daggers hidden, I was disappointed. i didn’t, however, expect this because the annual conference is not about politics, it is about presentation; an opiate for the faithful who are unlikely to change their voting habits and an opportunity for the party to give the Unions some pride back and make them feel vaguely relevant to the very different world of the 21st century.
As with all my other reports, I could have done it by staying on the boat and dosing myself up with a bit of NeuroBBC… but, today, in the interests of political journalism, I managed to find my way to Manchester.
Gordon Brown managed to remind us that he likes the job, is getting on with the job and is the best person for the job. I quote from my Reuter’s newsfeed: “I know what I want to do in this job. And I know that the way to deal with tough times is to face them down. Stay true to your beliefs. Understand that all the attacks, all the polls, all the headlines, all the criticism, it’s all worth it, if in doing this job I make life better for one child, one family, one community. Because this job is not about me, it’s about you.”
Well frankly, Gordon, you have to do a bit better than make life better for one family… there are thousands of daytime television viewers out there, soon to be joined by cardboard box carrying investment bankers – who are relying on you to take this country to the promised land.
Gordon then played the “I’m not a Celebrity” card…. so he obviously does not want to be “Out of here”…. In a remarkable use of the English language, pathos and complete speech writing bollocks, Gordon told us “I didn’t come into politics to be a celebrity or thinking I’d always be popular. Perhaps, that’s just as well…..And I didn’t come to London because I wanted to join the establishment, but because I wanted and want to change it. So I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. And if people say I’m too serious, quite honestly there’s a lot to be serious about — I’m serious about doing a serious job for all the people of this country.”
Hinting darkly, possibly, at dastardly deeds – possibly even going back as far as the famous Granita Restaurant shafting…. Gordon said “What angers me and inspires me to act is when people are treated unfairly.”
The Prime Minister, rising to his theme, remembering perhaps those ripping sermons given in The Church of Scotland and going to the heart of his message… thundered… “First transparency, all transactions need to be transparent and not hidden. Second, sound banking, a requirement to demonstrate that risk can be managed and priced for bad times as well as good. Third, responsibility, no member of a bank’s board should be able to say they did not understand the risks they were running and walk away from them. Fourth, integrity, removing conflicts of interest so that bonuses should not be based on short-term speculative deals but on hard work effort and enterprise. And fifth, global standards and supervision because the flows of capital are global, then supervision can no longer just be national but has to be global.”
It was at this stage of the proceedings that I began to lose the will to live, to understand what it must be like to be Nick Robinson or Andrew Marr who actually try and interview the man. I persevered. Brown then started talking about foreign policy – a subtle reminder to David Miliband that the Lord giveth and The Lord can taketh away. he may as well have been talking about the relief of Mafeking. It doesn’t matter. It is all window dressing…. all the real politics is going on behind closed doors. The men in suits will wait until the standing ovations are over and then there will be resolution one way or another. I have absolutely no idea why I bothered to report on it. I should have set the washing machine to spin cycle and left the BBC to get on with it.
I did think about wandering around Manchester to see if Wayne Rooney and his wife Colleen were around but London beckons..
This is Charon, reporting from Manchester