Don's diary

October 15, 1999

Thursday

In Bournemouth the political biography launch season is in full swing. The Labour Party

conference has everything from Glenda Jackson's story through to the Dictionary of Labour Quotations. Buy far too many books, including the Directory of Political Lobbying and Leighton Andrews' insider account of the Welsh referendum campaign: Wales Says Yes.

Bump into Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, who is busy interrogating the bookshop staff and assessing the success or failure of new book launches. The biography of Alistair Campbell is the best seller while Philip Gould's Unfinished Revolution is dipping fast.

Scale of lobbying, and thus accessing and influencing government policy making, continues to increase. Press suggests that one large organisation paid Pounds 30,000 for a dinner party for Labour this week. This is confirmed to me by company staff.

Attend sponsors' evening reception, which is addressed by Tony and Cherie Blair with Alistair Campbell, as ever, in attendance. BBC fringe meeting next door on education and funding is almost empty.

Friday

Meeting with electronic lobbying company that monitors voting record of all leading politicians for UK blue-chip organisations; agree future joint research.

Travel north in crowded coach.

Saturday/Sunday

Unwind and assess media's coverage of political reality and rumour ahead of the Conservative conference in Blackpool.

Monday

Have meetings with new student personal tutees. One is 17 and refreshingly open about the fun of student life: it's so different from school, he tells me! Discuss research with student who is investigating the use of the internet in political marketing.

The Blackpool Conservative Conference looks poorly attended, at least half the exhibition space has not been taken and a number of notable organisations are not hosting events this year. The number of delegates is about the same as that at the Liberal Democrats conference a few weeks ago. The Winter Gardens is almost operatic in feel - a perfect backdrop for some ex-politicians who appear to be promoting biographies and trying to rewrite history.

Tuesday

Deeply shocked by Paddington Rail crash. I was born and bred in Southall into a family who for four generations were servants of the old Great Western Railway and brought me up to think it was the safest line in the world.

Wednesday

Listen to Jeffrey Archer go on about how he will clean up dirt in London. Entrance hall of hotel is crowded by elderly Spanish dons and their young wives and daughters, all heading for the "Release General Pinochet rally" featuring Margaret Thatcher. Attend sponsors' reception, along with William and Ffion Hague.

Phil Harris is chairman of the Academy of Marketing and co-director of the Centre for Corporate and Public Affairs at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

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