My annual 24-hour visit to the Labour party conference did not go according to plan, but it could have been a lot worse. Buoyed by the news that the Daily Telegraph had named me 89th most influential person on the British left (Yes! Bizarrely ahead of real lefties like John Pilger and even the head of the Fabian Society), I jumped on a train to Bournemouth on Monday afternoon. I was looking forward to speaking at an IPPR fringe event on multiculturalism at 7pm, going to the Guardian/Observer party at 9pm, hanging around enjoying the political chit-chat, sticking my nose in at a fringe event or two on Tuesday morning, listening to Gordon Brown’s first speech as leader on Tuesday afternoon and then getting a train back to London. But even before I got off the train I discovered that part of my plan had unravelled—Gordon had already delivered his speech. Tony Blair always spoke on Tuesday; why did nobody tell me Gordon was switching to Monday?
When I got to my bed and breakfast to drop my things and prepare my five-minute contribution to the fringe debate, things looked as if they were going to unravel rather more—I opened the envelope with my conference pass in it and discovered the picture on the pass was of my brother Daniel Goodhart, who works as a cameraman for the German TV network ZDF and who also had a conference pass (see right). Someone in the Labour press office must have picked out a picture from the D Goodhart file without noticing there were two of us. I rang Daniel straight away in case he was still in Bournemouth and could vouch for me if the wrong picture prevented me getting into the secure zone—alas he had already gone back to London. I slumped in a chair and watched the gushing coverage of the Brown speech on the BBC Six o’clock news.
Fortunately the police officer checking passes into the secure zone did not look closely at mine and waved me through. I found my way to the Tralee Hotel, which was a jungle of competing fringe events. I complained to anyone who would listen that more has become less on the fringe. There are far too many events with far too few people attending them; Labour should rationalise the system by insisting…