Conference Diary 2015: A Sunday at the seaside - of pieties, peace and parties

As a fallen Catholic, and more than once a resident of Philadelphia, I anticipated yesterday that the pull of curiosity would lead me to keep an eye on the final day of Pope Francis' historic - and provocative - inaugural trip to the US.

Conference Diary 2015: A Sunday at the seaside - of pieties, peace and parties
Professionally, of course, I would be in Brighton with the – literally – new Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. 

And, while they would also be speaking of the poor, peace, a shared purpose and a community of interests, I expected a bit more public frisson, grumbling and perhaps even some verbal fisticuffs.

But Day One, to my eyes and in the words of party insiders I spoke with, was "muted" and "reflective", "coming to terms with the new normal". "Peaceful," someone said. And it was sunny too.

And while many on the Labour right, Blairites and modernists alike, were predicting division, lurches to the extreme and electoral disaster, the quiet tones emanating from Camp Corbyn were more Papal and conciliatory. 

All-day conflict seemed to be taken off the table, with compromise offered instead – Trident suddenly wouldn't be voted on by delegates, MPs will get a free vote on bombing Syria next week and the new shadow chancellor will make some concessions to those urging fiscal restraint in the new leader's approach to the economy.

With Andrew Marr, the new leader looked and sounded calm and at peace. Marr, a skilled interviewer, well versed at rumbling subjects, failed to agitate the long-time political 'agitator'. 

Corbyn seemed determined to emphasise his commitment to small 'd' democracy, inclusion and the construction of a true "big tent" within the Labour Party. 

The "forced march" to the left being predicted by Lord Mandelson and others was dismissed as fear and paranoia by the leader's aides.

Frustratingly for the many apparatchiks (and there are a lot of them around) who toiled for Tony and Gordon in and around Number 10 and the Treasury for 13 years, the street fight they kind of wanted didn't break out. 

Not yesterday anyway.

And while in private many of the old guard seethed, angry at the state of the party, angry at the likelihood of electoral Siberia for a generation, angry at the mediocrity of the leadership candidates, angry at the "further blight on Tony's legacy", from the 'new boys' came only sweetness and light. 

"We should listen," "we should respect the views of others," "we shouldn't impose our approach on colleagues, we should work together."

Harmony. Co-operation. Peace. Concepts, values, an approach not dissimilar to the Papal one being described 3,500 miles across the Atlantic.

My guess is that the Pontiff's motivations are more sincere and that old-school division will break out before the week ends here at Labour conference.

For now, though, it's all sunshine and smiles. 

Nick DeLuca is the chairman of Open Road

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