Labour’s conference is feverish with talk of polling day – but not about the one that decides whether Ed Miliband walks into No 10 in eight months. It is still Scotland, four days after a win for the anti-independence campaign, that is dominating the exhibition hall, fringe meetings and packed bar of the Midland hotel in Manchester. MPs and activists appear exhausted by weeks of gruelling pavement-pounding from Glasgow to the Highlands. But they are also exhilarated by the quality of the political argument they encountered and full of anecdotes about late-night debate with strangers on street corners.
Neal Lawson, chairman of the left-wing pressure group Compass, said he felt the conference was full of a “bunch of boring suits with nothing to say” apart from a cut to child benefit and a small rise in the minimum wage. “It’s really got to me this year,” he said. “It’s the conference before the general election. It should be full of buzz and energy. But it doesn’t look or feel like the rest of the country.”
While acknowledging a party conference is never going to match the excitement of a historic debate about national identity, Lawson said it was a comedown to return to a place where politics is being conducted as usual, despite the claims of all parties to have received a “wake-up call” in Scotland.
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