Conference season getting into full swing now
Nick's praise for Paddy
At the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow last week, Nick Clegg paid a loving tribute to the man who sparked his interest in politics – Paddy Ashdown, the former Somerset MP. "I met Paddy, for the first time, when he came into a dingy, grey, bureaucratic office I was working in in Strasbourg," he said in his keynote address. "It was the middle of a major trade dispute between America and Europe. He marched in, everyone instinctively stood to attention, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye: he ordered a cup of coffee, instructed the room on how to solve the world's trade wars, issued a series of action points that should have been delivered yesterday, reassured us all it would be alright, and then swept out. This was the first time I'd seen a British politician talking with passion and conviction and without defensiveness or fear about the challenges in the world and the leadership Britain needed to show."
Whipping up a storm
Lord Ashdown popped up repeatedly. Yeovil MP David Laws recalled his first party conference in 1994. A "lively affair" he told delegates. "A debate on legalising drugs, then another backing provision of state regulated brothels; followed shortly by a row over plans to abolish the monarchy, all culminating in Paddy Ashdown doing what the media called 'storming off the stage'."
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Ed's secret weapon
And so to Brighton. Justine Thornton, wife of Labour leader Ed Miliband, is being deployed at Labour party conference as her husband's "secret weapon". The Opposition leader's personal poll rating is so parlous, strategists are anxious to ditch the "presidential" model in favour of promoting Labour as a team. Ms Thornton spoke to a series of fringe events, explaining how she fell in love with her future husband while helping him move chairs around a Doncaster hall. The environmental lawyer, who married the Labour leader in 2011, said she travelled more than 150 miles north from London to assist the then-prospective parliamentary candidate at a 2005 campaign meeting. She added she wanted to speak at the fringe meeting so people know she is "more than a dress" as she pre-empted the potential media coverage of her outfit during her husband's speech on today.
Ed's hard ball game
The journalists versus MPs football match is a cornerstone of conference season. No match at the Lib Dems but always needle games between the Press Lobby and Labour and later the Tories. This week, the hacks beat Labour 4-0 – an action shot featuring Ed Balls appeared on page 1 of yesterday's WMN. But the game was not-so-friendly. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham told one local TV station that "over the past year the press have given us a kicking and today we gave them a kicking". Labour making their own contribution to A&E waiting lists.
Tweet of the week
Former Gordon Brown spin doctor Damian McBride, whose memoirs on the dark arts of PR threatens to overshadow Labour party conference, after frontbencher Douglas Alexander accused him of "destructive and divisive politics"