Alastair Campbell: The risk at Labour conference is that you have a conversation with the party, not the country

·3-min read
 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Sunday: Burnley having undeservedly lost to Arsenal, I wasn’t in the mood for football, but Jimmy Greaves’ death meant watching old footage of the maestro at work. My son Rory, who works in football analytics, texted me: “I knew he was good — I had no idea he was that good.” He really was, his success all the more remarkable when you saw how awful the pitches were, how much harder defenders kicked opponents, and when you consider that Greavesie was descending into alcoholism. His success in beating that horrible illness merely adds to the admiration, and the sense of loss.

Monday is deadline day for my weekly column for The New European, and ahead of Labour’s conference, I focus on their reluctance to link “supply chain issues” to the dreaded B-word. While Brexit may not be the only factor, it is one of them. I can understand why the Tories don’t want to talk about Brexit — it is not going well; the promises made for it are not happening, the US trade deal (lack of) the latest in a long line; and far from being “done”, they are having to renegotiate a Brexit deal they hailed as a masterpiece of delivery and diplomacy. These are the very reasons Labour should be calling it out. Brexit omerta, out of fear they will be accused of wanting to take us back in (which Johnson will say whatever the truth anyway) helps nobody but the charlatans who created this mess in the first place.

On Tuesday I head to Kidderminster for a speech to home builders who want me to give my sense of current politics — a mess — and also, given the construction industry’s high suicide rate, speak about mental health. At the time of writing Boris Johnson has not bothered to appoint a minister for mental health. Some “priority”! The builders are at a loss to know what the Government means by Levelling Up. Join the club. I am finding it hard to understand how the Tories are ahead in the polls, because I barely meet anyone with a good word to say about them. “The trouble is people aren’t looking across the aisle and seeing a government in waiting,” says a member of the audience. That is Labour’s challenge. It is not just about Keir Starmer, but the whole front bench needs to be stronger in attack on the Tories, and clearer about why a Labour alternative would be better. The risk at conference is that you have a conversation with the party. It is all about what you say to the country.

A 6.37 train to Manchester on Wednesday means I miss my usual 7am lido swim. I am an addict, the colder the better, and am already panicking that I will miss three 7ams in a row when I present Good Morning Britain next week. I head to Manchester on the orders of ex-Mirror colleague Anne Robinson, who has insisted I spend the day recording five editions of Countdown, as the Dictionary Corner helper.

On Thursday it’s the Chelsea Flower Show to be interviewed by Monty Don for the BBC about my love of trees and the importance of nature to mental health. The older I get, the more I appreciate just how important it is. As ever, I am blown away by the scale of the show, the beauty and variety of the gardens, and the logistics prowess. There is still so much that is great about Britain, despite the Government.

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