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Labour in the east salutes new leader

Deborah McGurran | 21:02 UK time, Sunday, 26 September 2010

Joy and mirth at the East of England reception. The parliamentary party usually has a bash to thank its activists who do the work to get people elected.

Although the ranks were rather slimmed down this year, having lost a rash of MPs across the region, those who were there were in good spirits, bouyed by the outcome of the leadership battle.

We would have liked to have brought you some pictures of the event but high-handed officials banned us from any recording.

Several former MPs had made the journey north to Manchester, including Bob Blizzard, the former MP for Waveney, Chris Mole, the former member for Ipswich who was positively beaming, Ivan Henderson, who once held Harwich for Labour and then a smiling Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary and Norwich South MP, appeared.

They all looked well and more relaxed than they did when they were in parliament. There seems to have been some support for the full range of candidates. Gavin Shuker (Luton South) an Ed Miliband supporter, Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon for Ed Balls, Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) was orchestrating Diane Abbott's campaign, Ivan Henderson was an Andy Burnham man, while Sally Keeble (formerly, Northampton North) was a David Miliband fan.

But the overriding impression of support in the east was for David Miliband.

Then Ed, the younger, arrived with his deputy leader, Harriet Harman, to delighted applause.

He mentioned his older brother within two sentences and congratulated him and his campaign on their graciousness in defeat. We had heard earlier of the Ed Balls' camp's good natured thank you party last night.

Apparently the Shadow Education Secretary did a great impersonation of Diane Abbott, who thoroughly enjoyed it as she was there, but there was no such camaraderie between the brothers Miliband. We're told Ed Mili's supporters partied until dawn but David's went to ground.

The party leader urged everyone to recruit a party member: "I know we're an odd bunch but you must have at least one friend," he joked.

He told the eastern party members that the cuts did not need to be so deep or so fast and while in deep debt after World War Two we built the health service: "We need visionaries not accountants," he declared.

Then he went next door to a TUC reception where he told them trades unions are the bedrock of the Labour movement to rapturous applause.

They certainly got the leader they wanted.

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