I've only once been to a Labour conference before, and was taken aback by all the sharp-suited young men stalking down the street, three abreast, talking confidentially. To be fair, there were quite a lot of sharp-suited young men at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool, but they looked marginally more human.
I was going to go to Manchester this week. I wish I had in some ways. My sense that behind Ed Miliband is this archetypal family tragedy, the destruction of his older brother's political career, has only grown during the week - and I feel increasingly that it is going to define Ed's leadership.
I was supposed to go on Monday to speak at a fringe meeting. I only discovered a week before that the meeting was in the secure zone and I would need a pass. I phoned the Labour Party and was told that, as an individual at that stage, they would charge me £425 a day. Worse, they couldn't guarantee to let me in, and - although they might blame the police for that - they would not guarantee to give me my money back if they didn't let me in.
I expect the Lib Dem conference also puts non-members through this kind of thing too, but the experience was so reminiscent of New Labour's approach to call centres and people-processing - the inflexible regulations, the obscure rules that only benefit the organisation - that I decided not to go.
I am self-employed and would never have dreamed of spending £425 on my own account, but I probably could have persuaded the organisation I was representing to cover the bill if I had argued hard enough. But the thought of subsidising the Labour Party to the tune of £425 was too much. I preferred to stay at home. Was I wrong?
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