Sunday 1 October 2017

Labour Conference 2017: The beauty of our poetry, and the richness of our lives

Last year, the leaving of Liverpool was for me, I thought, the last Conference I would attend. The divisiveness within the party, and the sense of distance I felt from members who had not embraced the reality of change, either of leadership, or direction, made me feel irredeemably gloomy, and not inclined to re-visit the experience. But a week in politics, a month, a year: a long time, and so much has happened since then. After the spectacular performance of the party during the general election, Mrs Angry's boundless optimism reared its head once more, and here she was, back in Brighton.

Quite apart from the sense of excitement at the party's changing prospects ... Brighton is always the best venue for Conference, and an irresistible lure. See here and here. The unique character of the town, its faded, flaking Regency grandeur, the unbearably self-pleasing hipster culture, the juxtaposition of forced seaside jollity, and a sense of urban decay: all of it makes the perfect painted backdrop for a debate on the state of Britain, in the twenty first century. 

And the sea, the sea; always there like an eternal question, unanswered, crashing onto the pebbled beach, slapping up against the Palace pier, while the ruins of the West Pier, Mrs Angry's favourite Conference metaphor, sits forlornly out among the waves, disconnected from the shore, ravaged by fire: but still standing.

Listen! you hear the grating roar 
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, 
At their return, up the high strand, 
Begin, and cease, and then again begin, 
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring 
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sitting on the damp shingle, 'the naked shingles of the world', in the rather melancholy early autumn sunlight, trying to remember those lines of Dover Beach, I realised I'd never seen the old pier this close before. Now it seemed much nearer to the shoreline than I had thought. (Small, and far away, Dougal).

The sea between seemed calm: until the waves met the pebbles, and suddenly jumped ashore with some force. A young couple lying together by one of the abandoned pier supports were caught out by this, were soaked in seawater, and ran up the beach, laughing, dripping from head to foot. Perhaps it was an omen, for #lab17. Prepare for the unexpected. Ignorant armies, clashing by day and by night.

Up to the Conference centre, which was surrounded by the heaviest security seen yet, with armed police in groups guarding the entrance, and stringent checking of those entering. Inside, all was as normal, the usual array of stalls and broadcast teams, and thousands of people thronging the different levels. Except: it was true to say that the crowds of people were more diverse than ever - a slow process, moving from the days of the boys in suits, to an attendance by a membership more representative of the population, but it is happening, at last.

In the hall, speakers from CLPs were taking turns to put questions from the stage. Several of them objected to the fact that Sadiq Khan was being given the chance to speak at Conference, but not other urban mayors. London-centric politics are so well embedded in all political parties that this sort of favouritism still surprises ... well, only those who live outside London. The rest take it for granted.

Time for a young man in a suit, next up, to try telling members that it was right to hear from Sadiq because he has the largest mandate. Well, yes: because London is so populous. But does that mean he must always take precedence? The people in the hall let it be known that they thought not. But this exchange was a healthy sign: challenge from the floor was strictly forbidden, in the bad old days, pre Corbyn. The balance of power is changing, and members increasingly are given their say.

Outside the centre, a noisy NHS march, led by drummers, moved along to Regency Square, where in fierce sunlight reflected from the sea, speakers like Jon Ashworth and John McDonnell addressed the crowd. Again, in the past these demos took place outside the fenced off Conference, exiled from Conference: now it is a matter of course that the shadow Chancellor and colleagues will take part too.

In the afternoon, Ian McNichol talked about the party's hugely impressive performance in the general election, and the spectacular gain in membership - now around 575,000. Even Canterbury had turned Labour, he remarked: a seat held by Tories since 1295. That was a result of what he called, with a commendable attempt at inclusive diplomacy, 'real Progress, and Real Momentum'.

The Tories, said McNichol, think they are born to rule. Who's going to stop them? WE ARE! shouted everybody. 

Ian Lavery spoke of the pride he had felt in Gateshead when such a massive crowd came to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak during the election campaign: he also poured scorn, to popular approval, on pantomime villains Theresa May, for her dismissal of the use of foodbanks as 'complex', and George Osborne, who had been 'kicked out of cabinet, like a dog in the night'. 

More speakers the next morning in plenary sessions continued to amuse the hall. Emily Thornberry referred mischievously to Jeremy Corbyn's election night 'high five' moment, (which they later re-enacted with rather more success) and then suggested Boris Johnson might be made to take a paternity test in regard to Brexit, with a consequent award of £350 million in maintenance payments.

Keir Starmer talked about the Tories' Brexit policy of 'constructive ambiguity', and their 'post imperial delusions'. Labour now, he said, are the 'grown ups in the room'. 

Union leaders addressed Conference. Unison's Dave Prentis is not the most eloquent of speakers, but appears now to have overcome any doubts about the leader, and was awfully keen to remind us of what he now called 'our magnificent manifesto'.  He said he wanted to see us all on picket lines. Not sure if that included the picket lines in Broken Barnet.

Aslef's Mick Whelan talked about the lie of trickle down economics, and the deception of the 'Northern Powerhouse'; the scandalous difference in levels of investment between north and south.

Funny to see Unite's Len McCluskey no longer the lone voice in the wilderness, addressing Conference with a plea for a return to socialist values. He clearly was almost at a loss to know what to say, this year, except to observe happily that at the election we had won not only the support of the young, the hearts and minds of voters, but that we had won back our dignity and pride, and he ended by quoting part of the chorus of 'The Red Flag'.

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

The flinching cowards and sneering traitors, at this Conference, were keeping a low profile, and indeed, there appear to have been some damascene conversions, since last year, as the reality of Corbyn's grip on the party, and the nation, made it obvious to some previously disaffected MPs that the advancement of their careers depends on a new found loyalty to the party leadership, and a hasty, if belated, conversion to the founding principles of the Labour movement. 

Amusing to see critics of the new leadership, and new direction, suddenly so keen to fall in line, now that it is clear the change is here to stay.

But hurrah: here on the stage now was Dennis Skinner, who was greeted, as ever, with huge applause, good humour and affection. He talked about his life as a miner, working with men of a range of nationalities, all brought together by their working lives, comradeship, and union membership. He compared the way things were then to the experience of those living in a world of zero contract jobs. But he was thrilled at the high turnout at Conference, the surge in membership, and the clear proof that the party was 'alive and kicking'.

Skinner, of course, was acting as 'John McDonnell's warm up act' - and here now was the Shadow Chancellor himself. His speech was prefaced by a short film by Ken Loach, sitting in the hall, as Mc Donnell pointed out. Loach, whose 'I Daniel Blake' so perfectly expresses the extent of injustice and sense of anger that fuels so much of the newly energised party, stood up and punched the air with his fist, in a gesture of solidarity.

Mc Donnell spoke about his own family's history, and the course of the Labour movement moving in parallel with that history; one that rebuilt the nation from the ruins of war and enabled his generation to move forwards to a better future. This is a message that speaks to so many of us whose own families were enabled to move from an expectation of nothing but poverty and injustice to a point of opportunity and achievement: whose families would not have believed that we have returned, in the age of Daniel Blake, to a state of inequality reinforced by the removal, or destruction, of so many of the hard won rights they had secured.

The years that followed the path of progress, that led us into an era of materialism and a culture of exploitation are, surely, now at an end, and we need to reassert control of the process that gave us the things we, in my generation, took for granted: the foundations of a civilised society - the NHS, free education, a welfare state. 

When Mc Donnell announced a Labour government would be taking back control of the utilities that once were nationalised, in the interests of that better society: rail, water, energy, Conference was thunderous in applause. It was time to remember that such a proposal, only three years ago, was unthinkable. Now it is fundamental to the party's agenda. And hugely popular.

The shadow chancellor also summarised the ways in which recent Tory governments have become recklessly indifferent to the impact of their policies on ordinary families. The end of his speech spoke to me, and seemingly everyone else in the hall:

The Tories have tried to change people’s view of what is normal and acceptable in our society. They want us to accept that in the fifth richest country in the world it’s normal and acceptable for people to be saddled with debt; for people to have to work long, often insecure, hours, stressed out, struggling to find time with their family; for people not to have a pay rise for years no matter how dedicated you are or how hard you work; for young people to have no prospect of owning their own home; for disabled people to be pushed to the edge by the benefits system; or for carers to be struggling without support or recognition.

Let’s make it clear – we will never accept that this is normal or acceptable.

Yes, we will increase GDP, close the current account deficit and increase productivity. But life is not just about statistics. As Bobby Kennedy said almost 50 years ago:

  “The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry.”  (18 March 1968)

The performance of our Government will be measured by the care we show to all our people and the richness of their lives.   

We proved in the election, and we will now go on to prove in Government, our belief that:

Hope will always overcome fear.

Kindness and generosity will always overcome greedy self-interest.

And that the flame of solidarity in our society will never be extinguished.

For years we have proclaimed that “Another World is Possible.”

I tell you now, that world is not just possible, it is in sight.

Let’s create it together.

This is what people want to hear: not the politics of division and despair, of self interest and self satisfaction.

Interesting, and pleasing, that the Shadow Chancellor, and then on the last day, the Leader, both referred to poetry in their speeches: not Dover Beach, but Ben Okri, on Grenfell, by Corbyn. 

Leave a post Brexit Tory to a choice of verse & they resort to Kipling, of course - as we saw this week.

Satisfaction of another kind was on offer later that day, at the Labour Party Irish Society do. From the moment of arrival, the reception was warm, welcoming, and for perhaps the first time at any Conference event, it was a feeling of being at home: the craic, the laughter, a roomful of other people carrying a burden of inherited Catholic guilt; the good humour of the hosts, and guests. Well: perhaps all but one of the guests. Read on.

The leader of the Irish Labour party addressed the gathering, suggesting that the speeches should not get in the way of our drinking, which was clearly good advice, faithfully adhered to by all, including Himself.

As to Brexit: the prospect of a hard border was simply unthinkable, he said. It would not happen. Could not happen.

Standing next to me was a familiar figure. Ah yes, to be sure: it was Your Man - (not mine) - Owen Smith, who in June was appointed by Corbyn as shadow Northern Ireland secretary. He stood there with a glass of beer in his hand, as if he did not quite know what to do with it (everyone else was drinking Guinness from a bottle) and listened more carefully than needed to the speeches. At one point he said to the speaker (who ignored him): you said that last year. I turned to him and suggested, perhaps unwisely, that if he could remember what was said last year, he clearly had not had enough to drink, either then, or now. Nothing. Nope. Not the slightest hint of amusement. He pursed his lips, like a Sunday school teacher. 

Off then to another Irish event: 'Labour for a United Ireland - in a small room over a gentrified pub called the Pump House. A modest gathering, fewer than thirty, but the place was packed - and Ken Loach was due to come. 

In fact this was the sort of meeting that makes Conference so worthwhile: real debate, thought provoking - provocative, even, as we shall see. The panel consisted of people like the Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, and writer Geoff Bell.

Interesting to be reminded by Maskey of the previous times in history that English MPs have played 'the Orange card' to get what they want: Theresa May is following in a time honoured tradition by retaining power only by bartering with the DUP. And yet again, the fate of the Irish people is left in the balance while British interests come first: the continuation of an imperialist policy. Here is the island of Ireland, he said, administered by two states, and three governments: time it was understood you cannot tell the Irish people what to do anymore, and let them decide their own future, in or out of Europe.

Loach arrived, and sat down. He apologised for being late, having been at a discussion about Israel and Palestine. He then said, in passing, that he had never heard a word of antisemitism in the Labour movement. 

Who could have anything but but admiration for Ken Loach as an artist, and film maker? I'm proud to have been in a short film made in Barnet for which he recorded an introduction; 'I Daniel Blake', is an outstandingly moving and important work, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, about the fight for Irish independence, is a masterpiece. However ... he was incredibly naive to make such a statement. He does not see the contradiction in telling us, as he did at this meeting, that he remembers the overt racism expressed towards Irish people,"no Irish, no blacks, no dogs", and the injustice of telling the Irish how to run their own country, while at the same time claiming the right to tell Jewish people that they are wrong to feel they are the target of racism too, or denying the experiences they have. 

On the other hand, the thought occurred more than once during Conference, that the absence of a safe forum in which constructive political criticism of Israeli government policy towards the Palestinian people can be raised, respectfully, and without causing offence, has a dangerous consequence: a small minority of those who become interested in these issues, purely from a political perspective, sometimes end up adopting, intentionally or not, language and attitudes that are antisemitic, often from ignorance, and lack of challenge at an early point. 

It is unfair to portray Labour members as a whole as holding or tolerating such views, however, as some political enemies like to do: almost all of the offensive material is from people who are mindless, anonymous trolls, or attach themselves to the fringes of extremist groups, not party members. Anyone within the party who resorts to such vile behaviour, should be dealt with as a matter of urgency, and kicked out - and hopefully will be, from now on.

Next morning I wandered into the hall just as a member of the 'Jewish Voice for Labour' movement was launching into a speech accusing the party of creating an amendment (supported by Barnet councillor Phil Cohen) targeting 'thought crime' - in a way that could only offend those who within the Jewish Labour Movement - such as former Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, Jeremy Newmark - have worked to create the new party rule change that will deal with antisemitism - a change backed by Jeremy Corbyn. It was an ugly moment, and I left again, as soon as possible.

Later that day, I was chatting outside the Grand Hotel with one of the Labour councillors from Barnet, when another member of  'Jewish Voice for Labour', who knew the member, although this councillor strongly disagreed with her views, engaged us in an unsolicited argument. She felt aggrieved, stating that the Jewish Labour Movement should not, could not, represent her or the community. JLM, in fact, has a long and distinguished history of representation, founded as 'Poale Zion', at the beginning of the 20th century, and affiliated to the Labour party in 1920. Who or what are JVL? Not sure. 

The amendment is passed, anyway - and now the party can move on: we hope. Yes: Mrs Angry, eternal optimist, again.

One of the most noticeable changes in Brighton, to me, since the last Conference here, is the increase in the number of homeless people on the streets: not just at night time, in shop doorways, but in the day, lying on mattresses and makeshift beds in the shopping areas and elsewhere. Not an unusual sight anywhere, sadly, now: but within the Conference zone, it was a timely reminder of the real extent of social deprivation happening now, worsening now. 

Back at home, some people not at Conference, not party members, or activists, were busy tweeting their disapproval that Labour were apparently not debating Brexit. How dare the party to which they do not belong allow the Leader of the Labour party to cunningly manipulate them into a democratic vote choosing the issues to be debated?

Well,  this was nonsense: members were balloted, and gave priority to other issues for those selected items. Elsewhere, everywhere, the subject of Brexit was very definitely given plenty of discussion. 

Momentum's 'The World Transformed' - next to a bar named 'Revolution' ... and on the site of a house where Dr Johnson and Fanny Burney used to visit their friend, the writer and diarist Hester Thrale ...

But standing in the street one day, observing a homeless man huddled in a corner of a doorway,  wrapped in a blanket, looking across the road in detached curiosity at the passing delegates and members and the queues of people waiting to enter Momentum's 'World Transformed, suddenly things seemed to fall into place: a moment of epiphany.

Arguing about the finer points of Brexit and nothing else is a middle class luxury: an indulgence. Someone in a shop doorway in Brighton, or a single mum in a hostel in Margate: they aren't worrying about their right to go and live in Berlin, or Barcelona, or anything much more than how they can afford the bus fare to the GP, or feed themselves, and keep some sort of life going in the next few days and weeks. While we allow ourselves to become fixated on one issue, and a problem which is never going to be resolved while the current government is in place, people are taking their own lives, driven to despair by the loss of benefits; our NHS is being torn up and thrown to the dogs of privatisation; thousands of people are being forced to depend on the handouts from their local foodbank. Only a change of government can help them - and only a change of government can do anything to reclaim anything positive from the consequences of Brexit.

 That and nothing else should be our priority. No one has a coherent strategy for Brexit, nor for preventing it: there is no way of preventing it as things stand - and the nation the Tories want to build in its place is a terrifying prospect. Only a Labour government can create something that protects most, if not all, of the benefits we now have as part of the EU: but maybe, just maybe - if we are stuck with Brexit - it would be possible to create something even better.

Labour has to address the urgent needs of ordinary people, and our most vulnerable citizens, and offer the hope of a society where they will be safe, supported, respected and empowered. 

We've seen that trickle down economics don't work - now we have to work from the other end of the social scale. 

In or out of the EU, we have to have a change of government to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

A fringe meeting on Tuesday night posed an interesting question: was Labour still the party of workers? 

The panel, hosted by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank that works to improve the living standards of those in Britain on low to middle incomes, was going to include Frances O'Grady, Kevin Maguire, and was chaired by Torsten Bell.

It was held in the Hilton Metropole: an ageing venue of unique ugliness - aptly referred to in Eliot's Wasteland, in one of many literary allusions that associate Brighton with the reputation of a place of unsavoury assignations. Once a grand Victorian hotel, now in a state of barely controlled decline, with many of the Conference events, such as this one, taking place in a massive room, emptied of all human context: a vast space, windowless, grey: oppressive - deeply depressing. Unreal city.

Deborah Mattinson from 'Britain Thinks'  gave a statistical analysis of voters in the last election. How many workers had actually voted for Labour? She gave a breakdown of statistics, and indicated a problem with engaging working class voters. 

Now it was time for Lucy Powell, MP, to speak.

She was well aware of the need to listen to the working classes, she said, smiling. In her constituency she had run a series of meetings with them, to encourage them to express their concerns. The older white working classes, she said, once they got over being -ha ha -#angryaboutbins (copyright Mrs Angry, 2016) revealed that they no longer felt they had 'purchase' over their communities. Oh. Did they use that term, wondered Mrs Angry, or are you putting words in their older white working class mouths?

It was good that Jeremy Corbyn seemed to give hope to some of these people, she admitted - but then contradicted herself somewhat by claiming many voters on the doorstep had been 'angry' - not about bins, but about him. Clearly not to the extent of failing to vote for a Labour MP, thought Mrs Angry, who was beginning to feel rather irritated by her (not helped by the fact that Powell was wearing the same green Boden dress Mrs Angry had worn the day before, unintentionally appropriate for two Irish events: a fact which obliged her to wonder, rather abashed, as to why she was choosing the same clothes as a shadow cabinet mutineer).

Kevin Maguire struck a somewhat different tone: rather less condescending, and more pragmatic - from a north eastern mining background, clearly he felt he might have a rather more informed view of what the working class, in 2017, was, and what they wanted to see from Labour. No sentimentality: listen, but challenge racism, promote Labour values.

Time for questions. Up shot Mrs Angry's hand. A BBC cameraman, who had been filming the discussion, appeared suddenly, too late to have any moderating effect on what now came out. 

Did Lucy Powell not think she ought to reconsider the vocabulary she was using? Talking about the 'working classes' as 'they' and 'them': rather patronising, as if they were some sort of rare species, that needs protecting, when in fact the Labour movement is rooted in working class history ... People in the audience mumbled agreement: a few applauded.

By this time, Powell had realised her gaffe, and was flustered, muttering of course, of course ... Mrs Angry pointed out that like Maguire, she had family background in the former mining areas of the north east, (ironically we were sitting in the Durham room) and she knew that a whole generation of Labour voters had been lost (over the Blair, Brown & Miliband years), that Corbyn couldn't win them back overnight, it was going to take time - but clearly it was happening.

Of course, of course, she hadn't meant to be patronising. Her credentials: well, said the ex Somerville College, Oxford graduate, who comes from a family of teachers: she was a Mancunian. (Yes, thought Mrs Angry, not necessarily a term that is exclusively interchangeable with working class). She could remember visiting her grandparents, in their home, you know, and the pride they felt in their community - their privet hedge - Eh? 

Privet hedge? asked Mrs Angry, thinking of the squalid slum terrace where her own grandparents had lived in Durham, and as Frances O'Grady and Deborah Mattinson tried to hide their laughter. Luxury!

The mood of the meeting changed then: Powell's anodyne politics were clearly not delivering the message most people wanted to hear. Before the end, one woman explained this was her first conference. The thing that had struck her, she said, was that the party seemed to consist of too many over educated young men in suits. Ha! I hear you, sister - Yes, said Mrs Angry, as the other women on the panel nodded: but this is better than it was, believe me. Although, she almost added, looking guiltily at herself, and Lucy Powell, the place is now full of middle class women dressed in Boden. 

A brief escape from the vast, airless, gloomy rooms of the Metropole, but then back again, to a slightly less awful venue in the same hotel for the annual Labour Friends of Israel reception. Outside the entrance there was a noisy demonstration with people relentlessly chanting 'Israel is a terrorist state'. Mrs Angry's heart sank. Once inside, the reception was packed, and speeches were made by a young female MP from the Knesset, the Israeli ambassador, and Emily Thornberry, shadow Foreign Secretary, in place of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn had come last year, courageously, although visibly nervous, and used his speech to condemn antisemitism - almost exclusively unreported by the mainstream media. This year, after so much controversy over this issue, it was clearly decided the better course of action was not to go at all.

Emily Thornberry and Ian McNichol listen to the Israeli ambassador

Waking up the next morning to another beautiful day in Brighton, Mrs Angry stumbled out of bed to peer out of the window at a stunning view of the sea, and the old pier, from the viewpoint of her hotel in the perfectly preserved Regency Square: a vista spoiled only by being bisected by the sky high column of the new observation tower. 

Up then and off to the centre, even though this year, thanks to the mess up over her pass, she had no ticket for the Leader's speech: in the end it didn't matter, as, thanks to a kind steward, she found herself somehow sitting in the front section, in a better seat than ever. 

And of all the speeches seen at the last few Conferences, this was one to be at: the hall was galvanised with a massive wave of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. The contrast with the Miliband years, when he lumbered around the stage like a puppet, and the speech seemed to go on forever without making any point, or offering any hope, and the best reception he could expect was some dutiful applause, was striking. 

This year Ed was spotted by a friend in the cheap seats, way behind Mrs Angry, looking on thoughtfully. 

Down in the mosh pit, surrounded by a group of very excited Glaswegians, and a few seats along from a curiously subdued Owen Jones, the crowd's mood was exultant. The event was brilliantly presented: the right choice of music, timing, footage, graphics: very effective, and the perfect backdrop to the simplistic style of the leader himself. 

No need to repeat the speech. There was not a single policy in it which you could not applaud: a range of courageous, practical ideas that meet the needs of all those who have been waiting for a fundamental change in the party, and in the political system. The part which was the most resonant for me was this:

The Tory approach to the economy isn’t entrepreneurial. It’s extractive. They’re not focused on long-term investment and wealth creation. When you look at what they do rather than what they say it’s all about driving down wages, services and standards … to make as much money as quickly as possible with government not as the servant of the people but of global corporations.

And their disregard for rampant inequality, the hollowing out of our public services, the disdain for the powerless and the poor have made our society more brutal and less caring.

Now that degraded regime has a tragic monument the chilling wreckage of Grenfell Tower. A horrifying fire in which dozens perished an entirely avoidable human disaster. One which is an indictment not just of decades of failed housing policies and privatisation and the yawning inequality in one of the wealthiest boroughs and cities in the world, it is also a damning indictment of a whole outlook which values council tax refunds for the wealthy above decent provision for all and which has contempt for working class communities.

Before the fire, a tenants’ group of Grenfell residents had warned … and I quote words that should haunt all politicians “the Grenfell Action Group firmly believes that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord”. Grenfell is not just the result of bad political decisions It stands for a failed and broken system which Labour must and will replace.

A broken system: nationally, and here, in easycouncil Barnet, freefalling into the abyss created by the hollowing out of every local service; a place where avarice and a merciless ideology drives an agenda of privatisation beyond the point of any effective restraint - or justification. 

The tragedy of Grenfell has come to signify so much more than the terror and loss of that terrible night: it marks a moment in history from which we can never return, or look back, but only resolve to make the most radical changes to a society that can allow such a thing to happen. There is an appetite, a hunger for change now, that I don't remember seeing before, in my lifetime. 

To see such widespread support expressed for example, for the re-nationalisation of our utilities, is quite something. The centre has shifted: years of Tory government and a lukewarm Labour opposition has created a more radical, reformist minded electorate, waiting for the opportunity offered by Corbyn to re-write the rule book, and make the impossible possible. As the Tories tear themselves apart, and face an existential crisis within their own party, the nation is looking elsewhere for leadership, new ideas - and hope.

Wandering back to the hotel, along the pebble beach, and then circling round the base of the new tower, Mrs Angry looked about, at the sea, and the old town. 

Our Victorian forebears, terrified by Darwin, and the idea of a world without God, used to build piers, to annex the waves, if not Arnold's sea of faith, in the spirit of imperialism: now we construct towers to give us ascendance into heaven, and enable us to look down from a clearer perspective, one previously the privilege of that Victorian God: with a cool eye, and the authority of our own grasp on power.

Standing in the present, looking back to the historic square, or the old pier, still defying the motion of time and waves, maybe isn't such a bad thing, after all. 

Change is difficult, for some more than others, within the party and without; but an acceptance that things cannot continue the way they are, and a willingness to consider more radical and challenging approaches to the issues that face us, is what we need. The message is clear for all of us - adapt, or die: embrace the cold reality of the new, or lose the achievements of the past, as well as the possibilities of the future.

Brighton September 2017