We attend the Labour Party Conference at Bournemouth where we are exhibiting and also manage to get on a few fringe events over the course of a few days.
It starts on the Sunday where I am speaking at the Compass/UNISON/Tribune fringe on 'Can public services deliver the new progressive consensus'. No pressure, the other speakers are Ministers Douglas Alexander, Ed Milliband and Angela Eagle, along with Heather Wakefield and Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee. I am on second and go for it anyway and suggest that the answer to the question is affirmative so long as we forget the fixation with competition, markets and choice and concentrate on competitiveness and public value. Most of the other speakers concur with my line, although Ed has a cheeky dig at public servants by suggesting that they are unresponsive and inflexible, I put him right on this during the questions and the audience seem to like this. However, Douglas decides to stick up for his mate and has a go back. On reflection not bad for a nights work I have managed to offend not only the person responsible for general election strategy but also the one who is writing the current party of governments new manifesto.
The next evening I speak at a housing fringe with some of the main trade union delegates and its good to catch up with whats going on in an area where we have a long standing campaign running.
We have some brilliant coverage at the stand with Ruth Kelly, Hazel Blears, Parmjit Dhanda, John Healy and Ian Pearson visiting. Unfortunately I miss the main event when Gordon Brown himself visits the stand and I am still outside the venue, Mo and Amanda are present and spend some time chatting with him. I think they are overstating things a bit, however I get a surprise later on. I go to a private meeting on climate change with Environment Minister Hilary Benn organised by the Fabians and I am really pleased when he compliments a few points I have made in the meeting. When leaving the meeting I think to myself I have done pretty well but notice I have 16 missed calls on my phone. I check my messages and it turns out Mo and Amanda have been all over the BBC 6 'o' clock news and Channel 4, 7 'o' clock news with Gordon Brown standing talking to them at our stand. We all meet up for dinner and my Hilary Benn story is obviously lost in the excitement of the others being on the national news programmes.
All in all its been a really good week with some excellent exposure for APSE and we come away thinking job well done.