The backstabbing and snake-like games of last years Labour Conference (2008) was replaced with a change in tone this year, all without making large revolutionary changes. I arrived as a GMB delegate- being the youth representative for the first and last time (I will be too old next year).

My initial feeling was that of gloom and doom- that Gordon Brown’s headache had become a migraine and that he would drag a half twitching carcass through the conference.
Sunday was unspectacular, with the highlights being a fairly good speech by Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain, and a better speech by outgoing First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan - it was apparent that he had resisted some of the worse aspects of New Labour during his time in office (much like his equivalent in London, Ken Livingstone) when he explained some of his initiatives such as scrapping prescription charges, and also some more recent significant programmes to prevent job losses and companies collapsing in Wales.

Monday was the turn of Lord Peter Mandelson to take to the stage (and a stage he sees it) his speech amusing but it failed to convert myself or the GMB delegation to “loving him” as the media claimed. Some of our delegation, were pretty motionless the whole time he spoke! But at least he made some admission that a lot of people in the party didn’t trust him or his politics!

Gordon Brown’s speech on Tuesday in my opinion was actually slightly weaker than his speech last year. Whilst fairly explaining how the Government had done their best in propping up the economy whilst it crashed, and drawing clear lines between the Tories; and peppered with some positive initiatives such as scrapping carparking charges in hospitals and extending care for elderly and rolling back ID cards, it took a negative turn when he announced proposals for single mothers- clearly playing to the tabloids, and with no detail to explain how this would be implemented.

The tone of the conference was slightly different to previous ones - Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB said to me “It’s the first time I can remember the leadership and ministers being apologetic for the mistakes they’ve made in the last few years.”
The broad feeling was that of greater optimism than at the start of the conference, greater sense that the party could move closer towards the kind of politics we truly want, and less certainty that David Cameron would be PM next year.

Yue Ting Cheng, Trade Union Coordinator

Thanks to mag3737 for the photo published under Creative Commons