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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spring Conference

I'm in Birmingham for Labour's Spring Conference. The coverage by the media - in particular the BBC - has been nothing short of shocking. Did anyone watch Brown's speech on TV?

OK - the game's upIn the hall it was very impressive, particularly the Q&A chaired by Kevin McGuire afterwards. I thought it was a lot better than his speech at Annual Conference - more relaxed and with a clearer view of the central theme of Government policy which it's apparent Brown wants to be about helping everyone to achieve their full potential through education, skills, welfare-to-work, tackling child poverty etc.

But then I watched the BBC evening news. The camera angles all made Gordon look as if he were completely isolated from the audience with a huge gulf between the podium and the nearest delegate. And the report focused on how he was escorted off-stage like an octogenarian actor receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars, only to be ushered back several minutes later after organisers remembered that he was supposed to press the flesh. The BBC didn't make it look like a task that he relished.

Mind you, the dead tree press has been even worse. Starting with Deborah Summers in The Guardian - "An unusual sense of gloom has descended on my home town of Birmingham this weekend as Labour delegates gather in the city for the party spring conference. But it isn't just the gale force winds and lashing rain that has dampened the spirits of those who have braved the M6 to attend the three-day event. MPs, special advisers and even the grassroots supporters are surprisingly pessimistic about the party's prospects." The Daily Mirror has relegated the conference report so far down the agenda that it's almost impossible to find - not a bad idea given the content of the report. Yesterday's Sun was even worse, with a search revealing absolutely nothing. Today's Independent on Sunday trails in a short piece reporting Gordon's "Britain of our dreams" speech at the bottom of the news reports. And The Observer features David Macaroon on page 4 but absolutely nothing about the conference in its online edition. The Express and Star regional paper focused entirely on the massive disruption caused to people in Birmingham by the security arrangements for Conference, as did Michael White in The Guardian.

The BBC really rubbed salt into the wound with a News24 feature yesterday in which they interviewed "shoppers in the centre of Birmingham" - clearly a euphemism for a bunch of hand-selected LibDems, Tories and Trotskyites - and published the following, clearly fabricated, comments:

"I preferred Tony Blair to Mr Brown - at least I don't feel like he sneaked into office. I think all politicians are dishonest and untrustworthy."

"Labour has betrayed ordinary working people on issues such as university tuition fees."

"He is quite a quiet prime minister. I sometimes forget he is prime minister at all. Tony Blair was more charismatic and made more of a noise."

"We both voted Labour at the last election and would probably do so next time, although I'd like to see some new blood at the top of the party, in place of Mr Brown."

"He has made quite a few tactically poor decisions and he was advised quite poorly on a number of issues. I think he needs to prove himself quite quickly."

"I was prepared to give Brown a run. I didn't like Tony Blair one bit so I thought Brown might be better but I think he has made silly mistakes like going out to the soldiers in the middle of the Conservative Party conference."

Gordon thinks through a new strategy for re-invigorating the campaign
Everywhere I look in the media it's doom and disaster. Gordon is being portrayed as a boring, uncharismatic, fumbling, uncoordinated loser completely out of touch with the average voter. And that's the good reports. What hurts even more is that so much of the media is simply blanking out Spring Conference altogether, taking the view that what's going on here is totally irrelevant.

Now you can understand why I spent last night at the Labour First reception, into the small hours. I needed a drink.

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