Diary - Carole Stone

The journalist Tom Bower waved a £10 note at me. I thought my virtue was in jeopardy, but he was pay

My first party conference was in the early 1980s, as producer of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions?. Twenty years later, I'm still addicted. At the beginning of the week, Gordon Brown thundered: "Labour needs not just a programme, but a soul!" And that was the theme at the Social Market Foundation fringe meeting to discuss "Is the Labour Party run by heretics?". When Lord Hattersley kicked off, he did what all good speakers do: he stood up (he says he never could make a good speech sitting down). He insisted he didn't want Tony Blair to do any U-turns, rather "a little body swerve to the left". Roy spoke well and knew when to stop - a rare quality.

Last up was the Home Office minister Hazel Blears. She may be one of the very shortest MPs in the House, but she just fizzes with energy. She grabbed the mike, held it as close to her mouth as possible without hitting her teeth (I like that) and belted out her experience of her Salford constituency and why she rejected accusations from Labour members that the party was losing its soul. "We don't have to do the Conservatives' dirty work for them," she said, but the betrayal tendency had been in the party a long time: "Back in 1945, the Attlee government was denounced by the New Statesman as a 'sell-out'."

It was time for me to leave - moving on to that very magazine's annual reception. Just as I was about to join the throng, I found my virtue apparently in jeopardy. Looming in front of me was Tom Bower, scourge of many a tycoon. To my embarrassment, he waved a £10 note at me. But he was simply paying up on a wager. Back in July, I'd bet him that Alastair Campbell would resign before this conference.

At the BBC stand, people were being asked to choose from a list of 100 books to find Labour's favourite. I put my cross against Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. My mother chose this book as a prize when she was at school in 1930. She was later offered a place at university, but her parents couldn't afford to let her go. Mama would have been pleased to hear Charles Clarke insist that "Education, education, education was our priority, is our priority and will always be our priority".

Fiona Millar, Cherie Blair's aide, is leaving No 10 and I've persuaded her to make education the subject of her first speaking engagement. As a governor of two north London state schools, she is passionate about the issue. At an event organised by the debating forum Intelligence Squared on 9 October, Fiona will speak against the motion "State education is a comprehensive disaster". She'll be up against Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools.

Over a seafront lunch of fish and chips with Clive Soley, the former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, education came up again. Clive left school at 15, and I assumed he would be the classic Labour opponent of top-up fees. Not at all. As a weekly wage-earner, he studied at night school before going to Strathclyde University. After that, the jobs came with an annual salary. Clive believes you're likely to earn more money with a degree, so it's only fair that you contribute towards the cost of the extra education.

On 19 October, Sir Bill Morris will celebrate his 65th birthday and leave the post of T&G general secretary. At the conference, he said: "If defending workers' rights is being old-fashioned and dogmatic, count me in. If defending workers is a crime, then consider me and my union guilty. And if that makes me 'awkward', then put me down as leader of the squad." I gather that workaholic Bill will now be focusing his energy on raising awareness of Aids in Africa among trade unionists and politicians.

That's it. I'm exhausted, but as Tony Blair says, unless you give up, you've just got to get on with it. I've organised a fringe event for the Media Society, whose current president is my husband, the TV journalist Richard Lindley. He will chair a debate on "Relations between politicians and the media are bad - and should be worse". With Charles Clarke, Clare Short and Rod Liddle on the panel, it could just get my adrenalin going again - or wipe me out completely.