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Just back from Labour conference and the second of the RSA’s 2009 round of fringe meetings. The Labour speaker was Peter Mandelson who was in and out pretty quickly as his conference speech was this afternoon.  Once again it was standing room only – which means of the five fringe events we have done in recent times every one has been full. 

It is fascinating having Robert Chote from the IFS and Ben Page from Ipsos MORI on the RSA platform. Robert knows what must be done to get the public finances back on track and Ben knows what the voters are willing to accept. We could hand Government over to the two of them: the only problem being that – according to the RSA poll – there isn’t any overlap between the two answers!   

I couldn’t help noticing an uncanny similarity between the mood and message in Brighton and the half time team talk given by the coach of my son’s football team yesterday morning. Balham Blazers under 17s were 3-0 down, mainly due to some goalkeeping howlers. The coach said what he had to say. ‘We’ve made mistakes. But we played the best football and we can still win. If we pick up our heads and our game we can still do this. We just have to put the other team under pressure, then we’ll see what they are really made of ’. Some of his message got through but you could see the players found it hard to believe their luck could change. And however much they tried to comfort him, it was impossible to hide that they had lost confidence in the keeper.

I’ve been asked not to use this blog for political commentary so I won’t explore Labour’s message except to say that it is just as predictable as the coach’s. Everyone on the conference floor is pretty much sticking to it and Labour strategists will hope that it gets through to the voters despite all the other distractions.

With Labour adopting a more traditional left of centre perspective it will be interesting to see how the Conservatives respond next week. Will they occupy the fairly large gap on the centre right now left vacant by the other parties (the position successfully adopted in Germany by Angela Merkel) or continue to try to occupy the centre?

By the way, despite a plucky second half performance Balham Blazers under 17s lost 4-1

PS I was, of course, delighted to see that I appear 55th   in the Daily Telegraph list of the most influential people on the British left. An old friend came up to me in Brighton; ‘Matthew’, he said ‘it’s so unfair that you are 55th’. Before I could modestly reassure him that these things really don’t matter to me, he went on ‘no one in the Labour Party has thought of you as being on the left for years’. Too true, comrade, too true.


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