10:53 - Bleary-eyed and unhappy: It's another party conference. The second, darker chapter in the trilogy is the Labour gathering. This time it's in Manchester, which, if it's ever sunny, I haven't seen it. The man of the day is Ed Balls, who has been doing a good job of showing off all his worst qualities, from apparently diving in a football match with the press, to fighting trade union bosses and not-so-subtly trying to put his party leader in a the shadows. He started today with a round of media interviews in which he explored more of that 'get tough' persona he's so fond of adopting. Later on there's a motion by the unions calling for Labour to cancel its support for public sector pay restraint. GMB leader Paul Kenny is walking around saying Balls would "give aspirin a headache". His speech is set to start at 12:15, but I'll bring you news and comment from around the web until then, with some analysis afterwards.
11:10 - It's not really related to the Labour conference, but eminent Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has died. Actually, there is a connection. He was a friend of the Milibands, if I remember correctly. He was also a massive influence on the British and European far-left, promoting a democratic but resolutely pro-USSR outlook. The Communist angle becomes irrelevant when you read him, as he maintains a balanced and witty outlook in his history. If you become intrigued by his work, the highlight is Age of Extremes, which has more information per paragraph than most history books fit in a chapter. There's a sort-of obit in the Guardian.
11:18 - Here are a few speeches in full for you. First of all Carwyn Jones, Welsh first minister.
11:23 - And here's Ivan Lewis, international development secretary.
11:28 - And finally (for now) here's Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, in full.
11:36 - Well Balls may have more of a fight on his hands than he expected. Unite the union's leader, Len McCluskey, just delivered a rabble-rousing speech to conference. he got the biggest cheer of the day for saying the previous Labour government put "too much faith" in the City and demanded the shadow Cabinet "come out of the shadows and be heard". He even got a standing ovation in one part of the hall. Of course, the more support there is for union bosses (short of passing the motion, obviously) the better it is for Balls' attempt to portray himself as a man unafraid to give his party a tough message.
11:52 - If you want a better look at that Ed Balls penalty there's a video on the Sun website. It's not good enough to tell, but the suggestion is there certainly.
11:56 - Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary and future Labour leadership contender, is giving a speech. he looks the part but he is being quite dull. 'Cities working together in partnership to create wealth' - that sort of thing. He makes some interesting points about the limits of the markets, which are broadly in line with Ed Miliband's thinking.
12:01 - Rachel reeves replaces Umunna with one of these god-awful panels they have at conferences to discuss British business. At best these things are awkward, at worst they're like Stalinist committees organised by a train-spotter.
12:16 - Thank Christ, that's coming to an end now. it was like pulling out eyelashes. Here comes Balls.
12:17 - Balls says it's been two years since the party lost an election. It should have turned in on itself. "We have bucked that trend," he says.
12:17 - he says he can't remember the party being so united. "Let us show we are the people to rebuild Britain strong and fair for the future". He has a skinny purple tie (what is it with purple ties these days? - no political association?) and an ill-fitting blue shirt. He praises Ed Miliband gushingly saying he is "the next prime minister of our country".
12:19 - What does it take to get sacked from Cameron's Cabinet? Balls asks. If you swear at the police you get defended. If you text market sensitive information to News International and you get promoted, he goes on, citing Jeremy Hunt. Then he suggests Cameron only dumps women. He compares this to Cameron saying Labour was not butch. "Butch? Whatever did he mean? If David Cameron's butch, where does that leave George Osborne. Perhaps that's why he will never be sacked. Imagine them riding off into the sunset together. Butch Cameron and the flatline kid." (Balls always makes flatline hand movements to Osborne in PMQs, in a reference to the economy).
12:22 - I wouldn't go so far as to say that section was funny. But it at least raised a smirk, which is more than you expect at these things. Balls is now celebrating police, nurses, fire-fighters etc.
12:24 - Balls slips Boris' name into a list of people we must be grateful for a successful Olympics. He also mentions Ken, who is in the audience, but the former London mayor still seems a little sad. Balls says the Olympics gave us "a shot in the arm" which might be enough to get us out recession this quarter. It seems as if Balls is expecting for us to quickly come out recession.
12:26 - "There is nothing credible about a plan that leads to a double-dip recession," Balls says. "That's just plain wrong." As for 'we're all in this together', Balls says: "We don't hear that line anymore. What kind of government uses pensioners to give a tax cut to millionaires?" Balls make the valid point that the government says lower-paid workers are encouraged to work harder by having benefits withdrawn, but millionaires are encouraged by having their taxes cut.
12:29 - Balls struggles with the pacing, He doesn't nail the right moment to build to a crescendo and ends up stumbling over words while applause is starting.
12:30 - I just got the full Balls speech in, will have it up for you in a sec.
12:31 - Balls says the fundamental truth is that more people on the dole, not paying tax, you can't get the deficit down. he refers back to his five-point plan from last year, which is as damp a piece of policy making as we'd seen in a long time. It's a marvel of sorts that he's still bringing it up. "With this government I don't see any plan at all," he goes on. "We must act now."
12:33 - Balls is now addressing the 4G spectrum windfall, saying that while 3G went on paying off debt, this time it should be spent on affordable housing. He gets a strong round of applause. He also wants a stamp duty holiday for first time buyers. "This is a clear and costed plan to kick-start the recovery - building our way out of recession and rebuilding Britain for the future."
12:34 - I've just been told Balls actually has a stammer and is apparently a patron of the British Stammering Association.
12:35 - Balls starts reeling off ideas, most of which are in play already (British investment bank etc). Next he moves onto banks. Even if we get the economy moving and reform banks, we will still face difficult choices. "Hard time are going to last longer than any of us hoped and we can't promise to put things right straight away." Balls then says he "won't make promises I cannot keep" by pledging to reverse spending cuts. This is the key part of the speech, as he takes on the unions directly. He gets an average round of applause. No massive support, but he's not being humiliated either.
12:38 - he says when they sell off the government's shares in the ban every penny will go towards the national debt. Some frowns from left-wing Labour MPs there. Balls says that despite his financial responsibility, he will do things differently to the government. He will avoid short term cuts that are easy but end up costing more and will not duck hard, long term issues, like social care.
12:40 - Here is the speech in full.
12:41 - Balls says business is losing confidence in the government's ability to make long-term decisions, but Labour will break that cycle. He says they need to decide how and when the whole of the UK gets super-fast broadband, whether to replace the antiquated national grid and a clear plan for renewable energy. It's not the most inspirational section of the speech but the point is sound.
12:44 - Balls says the chair of the Olympic delivery committee will looks into how planning an be improved in the coming decades - in a process independent of government. That's actually very interesting. It's an effort to take long-term decisions out of party political hands where they change from "one parliament to the next".
12:46 - Balls says that even though this was considered by some Britain's greatest ever summer, we should remember the post war summer, when they created the welfare state and a refusal to embrace austerity. It created "the greatest health service in all the world". Big round of applause.
12:47 - They were different times, but we must embrace that sense of national purpose. They saw hardship, but it taught them solidarity, not selfishness. They battled for education for all, free health care and proper rights at work. "We owe it to them but more than that to our children, to learn from their examples. Make the right decisions but don't sacrifice their futures. When our grandchildren look back on us what will they say?" That the UK dismantled the NHS and made it harder to go to university? That the UK wwas left ore unequal, more unfair. It;s all getting a bit Churchillian.
12:49 - Or will they say it was a generation that tackled our debt but built opportunities for young people - giving them "hope."Rebuilding Britain for the future. That is our challenge, that is our mission, let us go forward and do it together." And with that, he ends. He embaces Ed Miliband, who applauds him. His wife, Yvette Cooper, gives a practised proud smile.
12:50 - That improved quite drastically towards the end. His delivery became much more confident and rousing, and there were some thoughtful ideas in there.
12:51 - OK, I'll leave it there for now, but I'll write up some analysis and news coverage in the next few moments. See you tomorrow.