A heavy storm battered the Brighton coast yesterday morning. High winds and torrential rain had us all darting along the seafront for cover.
Shortly after 10.30am, another squall arrived inside the conference centre, this one so forceful it scooped all of us inside and out.
Labour members, union heavies and journalists had all flocked to the nearest television set to hear the Supreme Court’s historic judgment on the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament.
That soggy whiff of damp labrador lingered as drenched delegates awaited Lady Hale’s decision. I’ve not seen so many heaving bellies huddled around a screen since attending the darts at Riverside.
Lady H, a Bond baddie spider brooch pinned to her lapel, began by announcing the case was ‘justiciable’. In other words, the court had the right to rule on it.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Party’s conference in Brighton today. Judges today ruled unanimously that Boris Johnson had illegally prorogued Parliament in an ‘extreme’ move to ‘frustrate’ debate on Brexit
A collective sucking of wind between the gnashers whistled through down the granite corridors. The Prime Minister was almost certainly toast.
At this point, the corners of Hale’s mouth appeared to lift into a half smile. Would it be impudent to suggest that there was an air of satisfaction to her Ladyship’s tone?
She seemed to be revelling in the big reveal, the way Miss Marple does when she’s about to finger the village squire for strangling the chambermaid.
Then came words to send Prosecco corks popping through Islington’s scented salons. The PM’s decision to suspend Parliament was ‘unlawful and thus void with no effect’.
Delegates whooped. They punched the air. They embraced as long-lost hombres. Anyone would have thought the bar had announced it was giving away free pints of IPA. Such a momentous moment might be a good time for the leader of the opposition to land a hammer blow.
But this is Jeremy Corbyn we’re talking about. So predictably he botched it.
Appearing on stage, his tie so skew-whiff it’s possible one of his aides had lassoed it over his neck, Jezza repeated to the audience the Supreme Court’s decision.
Mr Corbyn alongside his wife Laura Alvarez. The PM’s decision to suspend Parliament was today found ‘unlawful and thus void with no effect’
The comrades’ energy was palpable. They’d just endured a dull dog speech by shadow business minister Rebecca Long Bailey. Wee Becky, for those who’ve not sat through one of her orations, is blessed with the endearing tones of the late, great Mrs Merton – though sadly not her merriment.
With the audience dancing in his hands, Corbyn announced that the PM must now ‘consider his position’. A subdued calm briefly fell across the auditorium.
Consider his position? Not be banged up in the tower? Not placed in the stocks and pelted with rotten nectarines? Not even resign?
Stuff that, the mob responded. ‘Johnson out! Johnson out!’ went up the cry.
Outside the Supreme Court, meanwhile, all the usual suspects – the SNP’s Ian Blackford, new Lib Dem Chuka Umunna, Caroline Lucas – were lining up to kick the PM. Blackford’s deputy, Joanne Cherry, was clucking louder than a battery hen.
The gloating gallery even posed together on the Supreme Court steps in celebration. That’s the Conservatives’ general election poster sorted!
The time then came for Speaker Bercow to roll away the rock from the lair in which he’d been hiding. Shuffling craggy-faced across College Green, he informed reporters that Parliament would be recalled the following morning.
He spoke in that slow, patronising diction, as though offering directions to a gang of clueless Chinese tourists who’ve just arrived from Guangdong.
There would be no PMQs, said Bercow, but plenty of time for Urgent Questions. Oh goody. Another lengthy Dominic Grieve snoozeathon with which to fill my afternoon.
Someone finally managed to catch up with the Prime Minister. He was atop a Manhattan skyscraper by the looks of it, his mop hair flapping in the breeze.
Hiding possibly. He didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s judgment – surprise, surprise – but would be catching a flight last night to face the inevitable brick bats in the chamber.
Back in Brighton, Parliament’s early return meant that Corbyn’s conference speech, due today, was brought forward to yesterday afternoon.
Parliament’s early return meant that Corbyn’s conference speech, due on Wednesday, was brought forward to Tuesday afternoon
He didn’t make his second appearance of the day until teatime, so clearly the script undergoing some heavy tweaks.
A reality TV singer called Jermain Jackman was sent out to rev the crowd up.
He sang a cappella for a short while, something about change coming. Cracking voice he had. How he wished he could have stayed on longer.
When Jezza appeared, he’d changed his mind from earlier in the morning. The PM must definitely resign, he said.
We got all the stuff we’d heard in John McDonnell’s speech the day before; those policies which would end bankrupting the country and bringing public services to a grinding halt.
We got class warfare, wealth bashing, a few out-to-get- you messages for the big corporations.
Nothing in this speech was new. No hope, no aspiration. Just bile and recrimination.
There was at least a rare mention of his wife Laura, of whom we surely don’t hear enough.
Now go forward to win an election for the people of his country,’ he said by way of a denouement.
Looking out over the hall as delegates launched into further chants of ‘Oh Jer-em-y Cor-byn’ it was hard not to think we weren’t watching a gathering of religious loonies from the Branch Davidians.
Here remains a leader of an opposition with the lowest approval ratings on record. Yet they continue to cheer his name.
And so back to London, where the PM faces Parliament today.
I doubt he’ll have got much sleep on the plane last night.
But it won’t have been the opposition that was keeping him awake.