There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed after being away, and the past couple of weeks I've been here, there and everywhere. Ok, slight exaggeration. More specifically, I've been in Brighton and Manchester working at the Labour and Tory Party Conferences respectively.
Working at these events gave me a valuable insight into the machinations of politics, as well as giving me a feeling for the two political parties who will be vying to run our country within the next six months. The nature of the work I was doing at the conferences meant that I didn't get to attend the big speeches or fringe events (other than the ones we were hosting), but simply wandering around the venues, speaking to the delegates and rubbing shoulders with the politicians gave me a real sense of where each party is likely to be headed.
Some of the most interesting / amusing / thought-provoking encounters over the fortnight:
- At the Labour Party Conference Guardian / Observer party I eventually plucked up the courage to chat with Eddie Izzard about his recent multiple marathons charity effort. He was so nice but I got slightly star struck and tongue-tied.
- Competition for seats in the Midland Hotel bar in Manchester was fierce - even at 2.30am - so we ended up sharing a table with a cross-dressing Tory with the most fabulous nails you have ever seen. Listening to him talk about why he'd attended the Conservative Party Conference for the last decade, despite being labelled the 'most unlikely person to be here', was absolutely fascinating. An interesting article about how the party appears to be embracing the LGBT community is here.
- Having a press pass meant that I could pretty much access all areas. Walking along the media gantry alongside the main auditorium whilst a well-known newsreader was having his make-up airbrushed on was a particularly surreal moment.
- Ken Clarke - who took part in one of our fringe events - is a great character, but I disagree with his views on the smoking ban.
- On our last night in Brighton, we somehow ended up dining in the same restaurant as COLIN FIRTH! Oh, and Alistair Darling and Caroline Lucas were there too. Another one of those 'how the hell did I end up here?' moments.
- John Snow: an absolute gentleman who wears the best ties and socks, and I now have a crush.
- Our IT guys who provided remote comms support to our journalists and worked very long hours deserve a huge pat on the back.
- Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell is actually a GENIUS. Watch him at work here.
It's not going to be an easy choice for many voters next year, but I'm of the opinion that helping to determine the political direction of your country really shouldn't be an easy decision to make. I just hope that the effort required to make this decision doesn't put too many people off from exercising their democratic right to vote. If disenchantment with the political system does get the better of us, then I think the outcome is indeed already decided. That's all I'm saying...