A trip to the seaside is usually cause for relaxation, but down in Bournemouth this week it has been incredibly difficult to get away from work. As I left my hotel room yesterday morning, the first person I saw was none other than The Eyebrows himself, Alastair Darling.
Somehow resisting a sudden, compelling and admittedly very childish urge to shout “Northern Rock” at the top of my voice, I instead followed the chancellor down to the seafront and the Labour Party Conference.
Now the only previous time I have been to Bournemouth was for a stag do, and a very good one at that (I would say so – I was the Best Man). I was braced for this week to be something very different.
However, as I followed Mr Darling down to the sea, it occurred to me that the atmosphere was not dissimilar to the last time I was here. Reminiscent was the jovial, celebratory mood; the tribal adulation of one man – and the sense of impending doom lurking in the corner.
For amid the extended honeymoon period – the Brown Bounce if you will – all the talk in the run up to this conference was of a snap general election. Will it be October? November? May this or next? No-one seems to know, but the Labour Party faithful do know that whenever it is called, it will provide a sudden and very real test of all this new found optimism.
So what will HR professionals want to see from the government as it approaches an election? Aside perhaps from pay rises for all HR professionals, top of the list is probably just a sign that Gordon Brown will stand firm against increasing trade union pressure for greater temporary worker rights and pro-union legislation.
In that case, the prime minister delivered golden silence in his leader’s speech yesterday when he spoke for an hour on crime, housing, the health service and education with barely a mention of the issues the unions were baying for at TUC Congress in Brighton the week before.
No wonder CBI director-general Richard Lambert looked pleased when I saw him by the seafront later on. He probably owes Brown a pint. I could suggest a few good places from last time I was here.