IT was freshers week in Brighton and the pubs and clubs were beating with red-eyed students excited for their first week away from the folks. Vodka strawpedos all round.
But just a few steps from the raucous bars of West Street, another class was registering for the first time, one which cannot afford to spend the next six months swapping homework for too many boozy nights out. Inside the police-fortified walls of the Labour conference, supporters from Camden may have seen the week as a sort of changing of the guard. A handover. A rite of passage for a new gang.
A bit like in 2002 when a group of 30-somethings won the election in Camden for Labour before wresting control of the party from the old guard.
Those young lions, as the Camden New Journal characterised them at the time, ran Camden Town Hall for four years before they were obliterated in an election meltdown. Once out of office, some of them were quick to lose their thirst for council business.
Theo Blackwell – a survivor of the past eight years – played a fatherly role in Brighton this week, although he too quits next May. Dame Jane Roberts was also there. But if Camden’s Labour Party is to fight back – and this was the fightback conference – it may be the ones enthused by their first time attending conference who will give them hope.
Unlike their predecessors, they are not shackled by being so closely connected with the Blair years and the Labour councillors in Camden who refused to stand up to his government’s most unpopular policies.
Brighton’s halls were packed with grumpy, battle-weary delegates seemingly overwhelmed by the disintegration of their party’s power nationally. They were certainly harder work as company than delegates at conferences past. But from new council candidates like Tulip Siddiq, Luciana Berger and Awale Olad there was a genuine excitement which will have provided an antidote to the gloom for old hand Theo.
Being sharp, energetic and ready for battle won’t necessarily be enough, though. In fact, in Labour’s case youthfulness seems to breed mistrust locally, especially in Camden where wise old heads warned against galloping after New Labour’s worst excesses.
But if this new pride of young lions can avoid the mistakes of the last lot, they could at least makes things interesting.