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27 September 2007

Snap election? Bring it on!

Cabinet Minister Hazel Blears urges Gordon Brown to call an early election and warns the PM activist

By Hazel Blears

I’ve lost count of the number of journalists who’ve asked when the election is coming, including at 6.30am on GMTV. The answer is simple – I don’t know, and neither does anyone else, with one exception. The delegates in Bournemouth are enthusiastic about the prospect of an autumn poll. They want to give the streets – and the Tories – a pounding.

My conference week has been fantastic. I’ve been down on Bournemouth beach with the RNLI lifeguards, watching a demonstration of their lifesaving skills. Every year they save dozens of lives, are funded by donations and work for free. This tradition of public service is what makes Britain a strong country, and what makes me angry when Cameron claims it’s ‘broken’.

I’ve planted a rose bush in a public park, to launch a campaign to green public spaces. As I said in my speech to conference on Monday, none of the things we value the most, our public parks, art galleries and museums, public transport or water would have been the result of market forces. If you want to see socialism, visit your local park!

The best thing about conference for me is the fringe – lively political debates, thought-provoking contributions from delegates, and the chance to catch up with old friends. I’m not sure about the growth in popularity in breakfast fringe meetings. I spoke on ‘Britishness’ to a Demos fringe meeting at 7.30am. I can’t think of anything less British than discussing politics at that time in the morning.

I’ve also met with dozens of Labour’s councillors, the true heroes of our democracy. I think the conference must always be centred around the delegates and visitors from our local parties. Change is welcome, but we mustn’t allow the vitality of conference to be sapped. Our activists are too precious to be turned into a passive backdrop for ministerial speeches.

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Gordon’s speech on Monday was the highlight of the week. It showed real strength and national leadership. It also was noticeable for not mentioning David Cameron once. The contrast between the two leaders couldn’t be starker. Strength versus weakness. Vision versus PR. Cameron increasingly looks like Hague without the jokes, IDS without the charisma, Howard without the charm.

This morning we got a real boost. The Tories have chosen Boris as their candidate for London. The last thing a modern and diverse city like London needs is a fogeyish and bigoted Mayor. It reveals the true face of the Tories – elitist, reactionary, out of touch. It gives picture editors the excuse to print that picture of Boris, Cameron, and the rest of the Bullingdon Club in their tails. It is another example of Cameron’s serial lack of judgement, just like grammar schools, museum charges, shopping tax, and Zac Goldsmith. The Tories will rue the day they chose Boris.

Next year, we return to Manchester for conference. I can’t wait. Sorry Bournemouth, but Manchester is a superb setting for a Labour conference – a symbol of our economic revival during ten years of Labour, and an example of a strong Labour council.

When’s the election? Who knows? But I say – let’s go!