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Advisers enjoy fringe benefits

Tension at the Labour Party conference was so thick, you could cut it with the proverbial knife. All eyes and ears were pricked for any indication of whether military action against terrorism would begin during the abbreviated get together.

Security was tight. In addition to the imposing fence surrounding the area and the airport-style scanners, every police officer from around the nation seemed to be in attendance. They were not required to wear identification, so one was left to guess whether they were in Brighton as delegates or to keep an eye on things.

The hatches were battened down so tightly that, at the end of Monday&#39s session, when the masses moved toward the main entrance, they found all but three doors locked. Squeezing several hundred Labourites through three rotating doors was enough to turn the mood ugly. It did not take long before tempers and voices were raised.

When Tony Blair addressed the conference on Tuesday, you could not hear a pin drop. It was an impressive speech and even his harshest critics were forced to concede that he looked very presidential, that is, prime ministerial.

The pensioners were out in force, as they always are at these types of events, and at one particularly spirited fringe meeting they managed to successfully shout down pension minister Ian McCartney&#39s attempts to justify Government policy. Credit is due to the minister as he did persevere with his speech and received loud applause for his efforts from the more sympathetic in the audience.

Financial group AMP made a high-profile appearance, hosting no fewer than three meetings. Whether the company was trying to target Labour Party members or simply attempting to build Government relations, it had few rivals in the way of other companies present.

A brighter week for IFAs there has not been in a while, with Treasury economic secretary Ruth Kelly calling them crucial to the future of the industry during a fringe meeting. If any IFAs were present, they would have been proud that their efforts are finally being acknowledged by someone in power. Could Kelly be IFAs&#39 new best friend? Perhaps the industry should have her round for tea so it can experience her new-found faith personally. The industry must be secretly hoping her unsolicited comments translate into action from the Government in halting the apparent move to scrap polarisation and make it difficult for IFAs to survive.

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