Diary: Alex Smith

Written by Alex Smith on 23 October 2009 in Opinion
Leadership candidates clandestinely campaigning and feeling the Stephen Fry effect

It's been five months now since I took on the reigns of LabourList in the wake of the Damian McBride affair. In the few days after Easter, when the story broke, my job was just about crisis management - fielding calls from the media, showing LabourList as a forum for ideas, not smears, and trying to work out both publicly and privately what had just happened.

I lost half a stone in those few days, and considered whether my own continued involvement was worthwhile. In hindsight, I think I made the right decision by staying on and committing to saving and improving what I believe is a valid and now valued project.

As well as the hard work, though, there have been some amusing quips along the way. When little Billy - the latest addition to the Draper-Garraway clan - was thrust into my arms a couple of days after he arrived recently, Kate quipped: "Oh, Derek, that's twice now you've left Alex holding the baby!"

The PM is safe, it seems. Implausible rumours about a January coup aside, Labour appears to have accepted its fate with Gordon, come what may. For now, potential future leadership candidates are still keeping beady eyes on the ultimate prize, courting conference delegates with private phone calls and dolling out advice to thinktank types sniffing aroundparliamentary seats. Not that they want anything in return, of course. Some hopefuls are even talking quietly to the Young Fabian executive. Ah, ambition: the last refuge of failure.

Not all troubles were cast away at last month's melancholy Labour conference, but the headaches of combating climate change and protecting the BBC from a belligerent Murdoch were momentarily soothed by ministers' hair-loosened swagger in the bars later on. Spotted were Ben Bradshaw cheerleading a rampant few through Angels by Robbie Williams, followed by Jerusalem (thinking of the afterlife, Ben?); Ed Miliband charming his way around The Guardian reception; and Stephen Twigg pogoing to bubblegum pop at the Labour Students disco. Meanwhile, Ed Balls was at a Hope not Hate bash assessing Eddie Izzard's marathon blisters. Who said politicians weren't ordinary people with ordinary dreams?

Perhaps somewhat objectively, I decided to assess Manchester's reception to the Tories through the prism of Stone Roses, Oasis and Smiths books and records. Safe to say, it threw up some foamy responses. Morrissey said he found "the Thatcher syndrome stressful and evil" and that John Major was "no one's idea of a Prime Minister, a terrible human mistake". Noel Gallagher said the last Tory government was "when the rot set in...fucking awful". And what from the godfather of the City of Manchester? In March this year, Sir Alex Ferguson said: "All my life I've seen...the Tories really only caring about the people at the top." Meanwhile, at Piccadilly railway station, a mega-poster declared "Manchester: thanks for having us!" Some scamp had scrawled in red paint: "You didn't fucking ask!"

I enjoy watching Question Time on a Thursday night, partly because it's fun to watch politicians contract uncomfortably in the face of public scrutiny and partly because David Dimbleby reminds me of Grandad. But is it just me or have the audience questions been bordering on the absurd of late? One probe about the worrying trend of "cuts in the health budget and nurses losing their dogs" made me spit out my drink with panic!

If anyone ever doubted the power of Stephen Fry and Twitter, Tuesday, 6 October was their answer. After Mr Fry directed his 900,000 followers to LabourList that day, we received 30,000 new visits within a couple of hours. Naturally, he broke our site. Naturally, he was exceedingly, bafflingly apologetic.

Canvassing the doorsteps can be a perilous task. Pity the group of Labourites who, in one day, had to endure a dog bite and subsequent visit to A&E; three naked aggressors spewing bile about expense abuses - in the same house; and a rogue beetle in their noodles at the end of a hard day's slog.

Meanwhile, being new to this dirty game of politics, I've been trying to avoid making any sworn enemies. But thumbing through a list of Labour members who might support me in my recent bid for council selection, one familiar name did give cause for alarm: McBride, D.

Alex Smith is editor of www.labourlist.org

Tags: Alex Smith, Diary, LabourList

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