Shout it from the rooftops
Bournemouth 2006 and the Tories were in town. I was in a very long queue full of people with very short tempers. There was a problem with handing out conference passes, a fiasco that was making headlines. In walks a very, very, very angry Quentin Davies MP. He strode straight to the front of queue, thumped his fist on the counter and demanded in a very, very loud (and posh) voice: 'Who's in charge here?'
Bournemouth 2007, Labour are in town and one of the first people I see? Quentin Davies MP, in fine form. He's made it in without queuing and having jumped ship to Labour back in June is looking very much at home. 'You have made your choice and the British people will make theirs' wrote David Cameron at the time. The question Quentin Davies, the people of Grantham and Stamford and most of us who've come to Bournemouth want to know is: when will they get that chance? And will the Prime Minister drop a hint in his speech?
Gordon Brown walks in to the strains of Republica's 'Baby I'm ready to go (shout it from the rooftops)'. Hacks start making furious notes - is he trying to tell us something? We'd already had 'Soul man' and 'Move on up (to your destination)'. The Welsh contingency sit in a neat girl boy, girl boy row near the front: Joyce Watson, Leighton Andrews (beard, sadly, gone - in time for conference?), Luned Morgan, Huw Irranca Davies, Nia Griffith ...
'Baby I'm ready to go' fades out, 'Put your hands up' fades in and suddenly the man appears on screen: meeting small people, ill people, heroic people, Labour people up and down the country. Then in walks Gordon Brown 'honoured, humbled, privileged' to be speaking to conference for the first time as Prime Minister.
The message? He's proud to be British and believes in British values. 'There is no Scotland-only, no Wales-only, no England-only answer to the spread of disease or to terrorist attacks than can strike at any time, anywhere in any part of our country. And sharing this same small island, we will meet our environmental, economic and security challenges not by splitting apart but when we as Great Britain stand united together'.
Someone more conscientious than I am says the words British and Britain were mentioned 71 times. Get used to it. Rhodri Morgan made clear yesterday that devolution is about letting Wales deal with domestic affairs "while retaining all our shared British values". At least he did it succinctly. Gordon Brown took nearly an hour to hammer home the same message to Bournemouth and beyond: Britain is at its best when it's united.
His moral compass is still there and still intact. There were clunking fist moments and policy announcements that we will spend the rest of the day reminding everybody are relevant to England only. British values, English policy annoucements. There were more 'real man', personal moments than ever before, the usual references to 'encouraging all to aim high' as his Dad had done and so many Biblical references that I found myself scribbling old Sunday school mottos in the margin. A: aim high, B: begin low, C: carry on, D: don't give up. I bet the PM heard the same thing up in the vestry in Kircaldy.
I'm sure Quentin Davies spotted the hand reached out to 'those ... who may have supported other parties' in the past; though he may also have noted that there was no overt reference to the Tories or to the Lib Dems for that matter. Labour delegates loved it, they loved his sincerity, they loved the classic themes ... there was even one fleeting shot on screen of a woman wiping a tear from her eye as Gordon and Sarah Brown left the stage: pay the eagle-eyed, on-message cameraman a bonus.
Tonight it's off to the fringe where the One Wales Agreement will be discussed/torn apart ... I'll let you know which.