Extracts from articles and diaries on party conferences, chosen by Ian Irvineby Ian Irvine / September 21, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Denis Healey after speaking at the Labour party conference in Blackpool, October 1976
Labour MP Tom Driberg’s diary entry on the party conference, 3rd October 1952
Just home from the annual Labour party conference—this year at Morecambe, a resort whose hideousness is redeemed only by the excellence of the potted shrimps and by the architecture of the Midland Hotel… it was an unexpected refreshment to find, in the lounge of a middle-class English hotel, a large mural by Eric Gill.
This was the occasion on which it had been expected that the differences within the Labour party would “come out in the wash”; and most of us have had cause to complain of the roughness of laundries. So the conference was sometimes unedifying, rowdy; now bitter, now generous; passionately quarrelsome, quick to acknowledge humanity and humour. By contrast, this week’s Tory conference will probably be sedate, discreet and “united” (because the rows and intrigues are mostly off-stage). It will also be dead from the neck up.
Barbara Castle, then health and social services secretary, writes in her diary about the run-up to the Labour party conference, 26th September 1975
Everybody has been predicting terrible rows at the conference. Certainly there have been floods of resolutions denouncing the government’s economic policy and expenditure cuts and demanding massive increases in expenditure on this and that. The main item at the National Executive Committee was to discuss the proposed statement on jobs and prices… I was surprised by how much Denis [Healey, the chancellor] was prepared to give to get agreement. He gave away much more than I expected him to, and he was rewarded for his pains by getting the same line-up against him on the final vote as he would have got anyway. If I had been Denis I would have crawled up to my room wanting to die moaning “I’m a failure.” I suspect Denis has no such self-doubts, which is why he deserves to survive more than I do.