As an unapologetic political junkie I love going to Labour Party Conference. I have been at every one since 1974. They are not just an annual chance to take part in discussions and debates but above all an opportunity meet up with old friends and colleagues.
We used to meet at seaside resorts like Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton. But recently hotel and conference facilities have been significantly improved in several of our major cities. Last year Labour had a fantastic week in sunny Liverpool. This week we returned to wet and windy Manchester.
Inevitably the media focus was on the Party Leader Ed Miliband and his big speech on Tuesday afternoon. But there was a lot more going on both in the hall, in numerous workshops and training sessions for activists and delegates and in hundreds of fringe meetings.
Only delegates from constituency parties and affiliated organisations such as some trade unions have votes on the policy resolutions and documents.
Members of Parliament have only a limited role in the Conference proper. Apart from the big beasts in the Shadow Cabinet we are rarely called to speak. But I was very busy attending fringe meetings and met many organisations and visitors including representatives of rail and construction companies. On Sunday I went to the “Scouts Speak Up” event and heard the concerns of young people about unemployment and student tuition fees. I also attended a dinner with London First the business organisation.
On Tuesday I spoke in a fringe meeting organised by the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq about the political and humanitarian crisis in Syria and the case for international intervention under the United Nations “Responsibility to Protect”. Labour comes out of the Conference as a united party, looking forwards not backwards to ready to meet the challenges facing our country and rebuild Britain.