I attended the National policy Forum last Saturday. It was not really about policy, it was an opportunity for the leaders of
the party to make speeches to set the direction of the general election campaign and inspire the troops.
Tony Blair launched Labour's election campaign with a confident speech - much more confident than his performance at conference. He attacked the Tory cuts as "savage cuts to front line services" and gave many examples of Labour successes: £1000 more in real terms per pupil since 1997 was just one. The general election campaign will be "a fight to spread opportunity" but its "a fight worth having".
After a brief pause to "allow our friends in the press to leave" there was a Q&A session. Tony says it's hard to make progress on climate change with the USA but "worth endeavouring with".
Gordon Brown is on second. He speaks without notes and gives an excellent and passionate speech mainly about his recent trip
to Africa. He says that the Tory cuts are not just a few paper clip counters but equivalent to sacking every teacher in the UK or every nurse in the NHS. He then stressed "unity of purpose" with Tony and was given a standing ovation.
He gives an insight to his African trip. He was shocked by a 12 year old girl, one of 12 million AIDS orphans in Africa, "Her eyes were dead. She had lost the sparkle in her eyes". A man dying of AIDS said " are we not all brothers?". Gordon says that Labour is leading the international efforts to help Africa with debt relief and more aid.
Something to chew over lunch, where I swapped campaigning ideas with other PPCs.
Alan Milburn takes us through the campaign plan. Some good ideas. We must emphasis the excellent state of the economy he
says: low mortgage rates, two million new jobs, employment has gone up every month of the Labour government etc.
I then had a short session with Hazel Blears, a minister at the Home Office. I asked her about police response times
in rural areas. There are less police in rural areas, because there is less crime. Unfortunately, this leads to a fear of
crime because of the lack of a visible presence. Blears says that she is determined that every community will have a local
policing team made up of police officers, CSOs and special constables. In high crime areas the policing teams will be mainly
police officers and in lower crime areas there will be more CSOs and Special Constables.
Prescott rounds off with a speech to rouse the activists, which is his forte. I've still got my battle bus he says but warns that Labour were 16% ahead in the polls in 1992 and look what happened then.
At the end of the day I am definitely motivated to start "the fight worth having".