New Labour, meet solidarity

THE LABOUR Party conference was treated to a demonstration of a phenomenon that the spinmongers would rather forget: workers' solidarity. And they won. Andrew Wiard reports from Brighton...

Photographers downed tools at the Labour Party Conference. For the first time ever. Not because we didn't want to work: because we did.

Why? Because for the first time ever the Labour Party tried to stop a lot of us taking pictures of the Prime Ministers' speech.

At very short notice - on the morning of the speech - we were told that there weren't enough of the special tickets necessary to get onto the floor that afternoon.

Photographers making their case known to Labour Conference managers

Why? Security... health and safety... but we all carry security-cleared floor passes, we'd all taken pictures of Brown the day before, in fact there's always a crush on the floor when Blair speaks, and it's an annual routine and never a problem.

It didn't take long to give our reply - either we all get our passes, or there will be no photographs of Tony Blair today!

That seemed to have the desired effect. We were told we all would get passes. We thought we had an agreement... but then they handed some floor passes out, mainly to major news organisations, national agencies and papers - and left the rest of us just standing there. When we asked for our floor passes too, we got told: yes, we would get passes - for the balcony.

Not what we'd agreed.

Now however the magic floor passes had been handed out. If just one photographer broke ranks, all those "important" enough to get one risked facing an angry editor asking why someone else had the exclusive. But not one of them - members of the BPPA, the NUJ, or members of no organisation at all - let us down.

We went onto the conference floor, got those photographers still there to walk off, and all filed out of the back door. We hadn't been outside five minutes before every single one of use was offered a floor pass for the speech.

Shame in a way - we were even looking forward to the big picture of the day, a nice well-timed group shot of us lot outside the hall.

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