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Left Rule . . . from cover cotton candy orange or dirty yellow, in U.S. jeans and vinyl cowboy boots. They were taunting the tourists. Well . . . teenagers need to work all that out. Leaving Leicester Square, I went back to the tube, got a 40p ticket for Euston station, and ran down the escalators to catch the Northern line. I sat across from a Chinese woman who kept her gaze on the floor. German and English women, they look all over you; the French stare past you and the Indians peer from behind a wall, but the Chinese gaze down as their ancestors understood was correct. In the great cavern of Euston station, where I had to change for British Rail, I took down a half of Guinness, checked the newsstands for papers I hadn’t seen, and got on another escalator down to the train platforms. Two English girls, 16 or 17, were descending a little below me. They had a tape cassette playing a very loud song by the Police, a band. One girl had jet black hair short and straight as Cleopatra’s; the other was a close-cropped blonde wearing a T-shirt with some French words I couldn’t read. Directly behind them was a youtlg man, white-collar working class, pretending, like a good Englishman, not to notice. It was impressive. The train for Blackpool left on time. It was packed with delegates to the conference. Some of them studied seating charts trying to figure how they could contact each other from the conference floor; others read the Times, The Sunday Observer, the Guardian, none of which, to me, deserves the reputations which precede them. The Times is Tory and dull; the Observer is owned by ARCO, and the Guardian is socialism for the suburbs. At Crewe we had a half-hour’s stopover and there was a mad dash for sandwiches and drinks at the railway buffet. It was a Sunday train, and there was no dining car. By the time we reached Blackpool, an hour or so north of Liverpool along the moody northwestern coast, it was dark. I had taken to wondering what I was going to find to do for the next several days. I had a press pass courtesy of the New Statesman, but I hadn’t a clue as to the workings of a foreign convention. As it happened, you seen one convention you seen ’em all. I got off the train, carried my bags up a couple of blocks to a High Street lined with row on row of modest Bed & Breakfast accommodations and headed for the Imperial Hotel on the beachfront, where rounds of pre-convention meetings were taking place. A brace of bobbies greeted me at the side entrance to the hotel, an old, Victorian, behemoth of a building, the kind they build in the North as if to say, history was up here, too. The bobbies probably thought I was an Irish terrorist, but after showing them my pass, my Texas Observer card, my genuine Texas Department of Public Safety ID and they got off on this one my official U.S. Secret Service presidential campaign coverage pass with waterproof lamination and tiny hole for inserting shoestrings for mounting around your neck, I got in. Good thing, all I had left was my Safeway check-cashing card with secret code, and that doesn’t even always work at Safeway. The old hotel had the feeling on the inside of having recently witnessed a nasty little fracas, the kind that leaves jitters even on the bric-a-brac and the edges of the dowdy red carpeting. In fact, just such an event had been in progress, and still was. The Labour Party, which narrowly lost control of the government in 1979 to Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party, has been in agony for several years about who should run and set its course. There are two major factions, the Left and the Right, both of which are far to the left of Tories, but in the socialist context represent what might be considered in America progressive versus conservative wings. There are these other important groups: The trade unions, which constitute the bulk of the Labour Party membership and the party’s revenues; the Labour members of Parliament, restituencies, which are essentially the grassroots party organizations. As a rule of thumb, the trade unions are inclined toward the Left but flit back and forth, causing serious policy confrontations; the PLP is on the Right; and the constituencies are the home turf of the Left. At Conference time, the various groups compete for influence in setting up the party manifesto. The TUC is the dominant single factor, with a preposterous 6.4 million assigned votes out of a total of 7.2 million votes for the entire convention. The big unions within the TUC tend to vote as blocs, which gives the biggest unions, like the Transport and General Workers Union, a good deal of clout. But the various unions often are in conflict with each other. So despite the TUC’s unquestionable power, it is far from a monolith. On that Sunday, several of the unions were at odds with the member group which sets the agenda for the Conference. Elected by the Conference, it is under control of the Left, and is the only real counterweight to the PLP. The NEC, whose de facto leader is leftist MP Tony Benn, can’t push its programs without TUC support, and that support was in danger as the conference opened. By the time I reached Blackpool, the NEC and TUC spokesmen had been in a brutal session all day over conference issues and would continue until late that evening. To explain all this to reporters, many of whom, like myself, were from the Old Empire, the Labour Party press crew had set up a large room not far from the hotel lobby. Anyone who’s ever been to a party press conference in America would have relished the affair. First, we were kept waiting about two hours, time spent mostly in the bar down the hallway. Second, there 4 OCTOBER 31, 1980