The Labour Party Conference got off to a magical start on Saturday in Manchester with the announcement that J K Rowling was donating £1 million to the Labour Party.
Timed to perfection, the announcement put a smile on delegates’ faces.
In Manchester, the sun was shining brightly too.
On these occasions, I am always so proud that my city scrubs up well.
Manchester looked great.
When I got there I did the obligatory walk around the exhibition stands. There were some interesting groups but many big corporate names were missing and the exhibition area was smaller than in previous years.
Not a good sign.
My first fringe meeting of the day was a Fabian event at Manchester’s grand Town Hall.
“What does the white, working class want?” was the title. It was a packed audience.
Hazel Blears and Jon Cruddas were on the panel. Both gave good performances.
Hazel summed up Labour’s policy toward the working class in one word: “ambition.”
Working class communities are ambitious to own their own homes.
Ambitious to send their kids to a good school.
Ambitious for their kids to get to university.
Labour has to find policies that allow working class communities to fulfill their ambition.
She also raised the Respect Agenda as an important issue.
I couldn’t agree more.
Whether you call it Respect or not, anti-social behaviour is a real problem and one which working class communities suffer disproportionately from.
But over the last year, we have totally ceded the ground to the Tories on it. Where has it gone as an issue?
I don’t think I have heard the Prime Minister mention it once. Tony Blair used to be all over it.
Jon Cruddas, coming from a different place from Blears, was equally impressive.
I don’t always share his politics, but he was sincere, clued up and not afraid to talk about issues like immigration in a sensible Labour way. I am increasingly impressed by him.
Both Blears and Cruddas give us hope that there are some people in the PLP who have good ideas and want Labour to succeed.
This wasn’t the case everywhere though.
While the party put on a veneer of unity, everyone I spoke to talked about the leadership question.
A lot of people are burying their heads in the sand, saying that Gordon needs more time. I think that would be disastrous. The issue needs to be settled now - one way or another.
One former Minister told me that he was going around telling everyone that Brown had to make the speech of his life this week, because when he didn’t expectations would be raised so much that we would have to get rid of Brown.
And indeed I am sure Labour will have a good week and Brown will do just enough. But next week, the Conservatives will have a great week and Cameron will look like a great leader and the whispers and rumours about Brown will start again and nothing will have changed.
That isn’t fair on Brown. It isn’t fair on Labour and it certainly isn’t fair for the country.
The leadership issue needs to be resolved now.
This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!