Only the most unobservant citizen will have failed to notice that the Labour Party's Annual Conference is currently in town. I've rehearsed the economic arguments as to why bringing major conferences such as this to the city is good news several times before so won't do so again here, although I might do next year when the Conservatives return to Manchester Central. The last four days have been very busy for me, squashing everyday business into the gaps around a series of fringe meetings, roundtable meetings, and side meetings.
This year I've spoken at fringes on transport, economic growth, climate change, youth employment, housing, arts and the economy, child carers, financial and professional services, and even Oldham, all with the same purpose - to try and influence policy. Last year at the Tory conference it was about influencing ministers. This year it's about influencing people who might ( and from a personal point of view, people who I hope will ) be ministers in a couple of years time. In most respects though the real work isn't done from speaking platforms. It's done in smaller, often one-to-one meetings. Three examples. On Sunday I had an hour with the Leader of Glasgow talking about how we can link Manchester 2002 with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014. Yesterday I met the Mayor of Newham, another place with a strong sporting connection as the home of the Olympic Park, but our conversation was principally about High-Speed Rail and in particular the inadequacy of the proposed link between HS1 and HS2. This morning I meet the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man to talk about how we can build closer economic links between them and the North West of England. There have been other similar meetings over the past few days, and all with potential benefits for Manchester.It's one of the things conferences do - bring many people together in the same place, allowing them to do a lot more in a much shorter space of time.