Labour conference lookahead | 28 September

The who, when and where of the Labour conference.

Look out for

Andy Burnham, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, will give a speech admitting that the party should have done more in government for the 50 per cent of young people who do not go to university. He will tell delegates that university is not the be all and end all of higher education and that those who want to take an apprenticeship or go into straight into work from school should be given greater support by the state.

He will also make the case for the introduction of a "Modern Baccalaureate" as a replacement for the the Coalition's "English Baccalaureate", which he will describe as part of "Gove's narrow, backward-looking vision". Finally, Burnham will attack the government for stripping funds from programmes established under Labour to help "the most needy".

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is to announce the establishment of a Labour review into policing in England and Wales led by Lord Stevens amid what she will describe as the "chaos and confusion" of police reform under the Coalition. She will say the aim of the review is to "build on the best of British and international policing. Including experts from here and abroad" and that Labour wants to "[work] with the police not [try] to undermine them". Like Burnham, she will also go on the offensive against the government by accusing it of being "weak on crime"and claiming that Labour is "the party of law and order".

Signs of trouble?

Following his high-risk and potentially divisive speech yesterday, Ed Miliband could be facing some awkward questions about the direction of his leadership at the leader's Q&A. The Blairites seems particularly disgruntled about his references to "predatory capitalism" and may take the opportunity to remind Miliband of their mantra that elections are "won and lost on the centre-ground".

On the fringe

"How can we empower head teachers to improve our schools?" Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Labour in discussion with theNew Statesman's Rafael Behr (chair) and other guests. More details.

Conference timetable

Morning - 9.30am: Conference opens

Panel discussion of "Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities" with Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, and Tessa Jowell, shadow secretary of state for the Cabinet Office.

12.15pm - Break

Afternoon - 2.15pm: Conference reconvenes

Health -- addresses from John Healey, shadow secretary of state for health Education, and Andy Burnham, shadow secretary of state for education.

5.15pm: Q&A with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party

James Maxwell is a Scottish political journalist. He is based between Scotland and London.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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