Got through the security gates and into Labour conference around 10:30 AM yesterday morning. Went looking for the room my 12:30 event was being held in. Wasn’t immediately apparent, so I asked one of the ushers, “Excuse me, could you direct me to Concourse Room 4?” He shook his head and said “There is no such thing as Concourse Room 4, mate”. I asked a few other ACC staff – they all seemed equally bewildered. I decided I had no choice but to talk to Conference Services – since they sold the room to me, they would have to know where it was, right? Yes and no. Turns out – despite it having been sold as explicitly in the ACC and inside the secure zone – that it was in the Echo Arena instead. After some further confusion, we walked round the other side of the Echo, the wind pretty fierce off the Mersey.
“Is this the only entrance into the venue?” I asked. It was pretty clear that going the way we had just come was going to result in low to no turnout for my event.
“No, you can get here through inside the ACC.”
This made no sense. So, the secure zone isn’t actually secure? There is a giant hole in it between the ACC and the Echo Arena? Turns out, there wasn’t. And most of the doors to the side of the Echo my room was located in were locked too. In fact, I was locked in a section of the building by the security for about ten minutes myself. I got to thinking that what I was witnessing was a glimpse into a dystopian future, not far off; what a Labour government, headed by Corbyn, would look and feel like. Totally disorganised, yet capable of literally locking you inside of buildings.
The speakers found their way to the room in the Echo Arena, somehow, and we proceeded. Turnout wasn’t as bad as I had feared – we got about 25 people in the end. Would have filled the room, I think, had we been somewhere locatable. Maurice Glasman, who wasn’t sure up until the end he could make it, spoke and was fantastic. Maurice is one of those people who renews my faith in politics: I disagree with him on almost everything, yet I enjoy both listening to him speak and debating with him. He is thoughtful in his beliefs and his responses; Maurice never engages in the “It is so because I/my leader/this important person says it is so” line of argument. His views are always thought out and based in something concrete. Again, we rarely agree, but the fact that I can disagree with someone so enjoyably always makes me think that perhaps our body politic isn’t beyond repair just yet.
After the event, I wandered around. I can summarise this Labour conference fairly easily: flat as a pancake. It’s so unbelievably listless. Going back to Labour conference 2013, when Ed Miliband gave the energy freeze speech, there was a real buzz around conference. There was a palpable feeling back then of victory just over the horizon. Here and now, you don’t get that vibe from Labour conference at all. Part of the problem is that Corbyn and his acolytes, even having taken control of the party, still view conference as a foreign land. Instead, most of the energy is probably at the Momentum thing (which I didn’t bother with this year at all) – or with Corbyn himself, who was out and about in Liverpool most of yesterday, avoiding conference as if were a dentist’s appointment. All that’s left at conference itself are the old guard; the people who have been in the party for decades. And most of them are thoroughly depressed. Call me crazy, but from here in Liverpool, Labour feel miles away from winning a general election – miles and miles and miles.