Conference Blues......Reds and Yellows....
For someone watching the party conferences at home - well the Lib Dem one and the 'big hitters' from Labour's jamboree at least, the following thoughts come to my mind.
The Leader's Speech : always straight afterwards you get interviews on radio and TV with party reps / delegates and predictably they tell you how brilliant it was ! This is even when the evidence is very much to the contrary, Bloggers do likewise and try to 'spin' these events just like their professional counterparts. The lack of candour is very irritating !
Can you imagine the day when a party hack from the respective conference says Tony / Gordon / Ming or 'Dave' got it wrong and admits the speech was less than inspiring ? Even, I've seen him (and sadly currently only 'him') give better never passes the lips of these part-time politicos. Why these responses are televised is anyones guess, but I'm sure the public sees right through this oiliness !
So clearly Ming 'rallied the troops' and 'delivered substance not spin' and has 'stamped his leadership on the party and his is a party of 'liberal values' - strange that from a party called the Liberal Democrats !
Tony is, of course, 'the great communicator' and 'the author of three New Labour victories alonside Gordon'. Labour delegates have amnesia and forget about Iraq, Lebanon, trust schools and Academies, nuclear power, ID Cards et al . Swept up by the atmosphere of conference they fall in love with Tony again, oooh for at least five minutes, especially with the media in tow.
Best examples of this are major trade union leaders. At the TUC, the likes of Woodley, Prentis, Simpson and their ilk come to bury Blair, but come Labour conference it's talk of our great 'Labour government' and 'labour movement'. Bill Morris once of the TGWU was a master of this double-speak.
The Tories ? I confidently predict their convention attenders, for it is hardly a policy making conference, will say something along the lines of ... that 'Dave' gave the speech of 'Prime Minister-in-waiting' - join the queue behind Gordon Brown at least you upstart ! No doubt his speech will be 'inspirational' and maybe will express 'traditional Conservative values but in a modern setting' or maybe Tony Blair has said and done that already ?! Maybe he'll say 'go back to your constituencies and prepare for government' - hopefully with the same success David Steel had to that clarion call.
We'll definitely hear how 'modern', 'united' 'liberal' and 'green' they allegedly are too. All utter hogwash naturally. Oops nearly forgot that oxymoron 'compassionate conservatism' !
Speaking of being united, usually party activists say how united they are, 'reinvigorated' and ready to take that 'positive message' out to the country and challenge the policy-lite other parties. In print media Liberal Democrat News so often reverts to the "...only the Liberal Democrats..." can make our economy sound, get a No 1 record for 'Posh Spice', save the planet, restore Nottingham Forest to the Premiership or whatever. Like only Lib Dems have good ideas ?!
Conversely, following a fractious conference, senior personnel will in rare and reverential tones talk of the 'sovereignty of conference' and that how their annual borefest is democratic, unlike the other parties, naturally. That's having tried to twist arms and circumvent debate to get conference to vote down the newly-adopted but unwanted policy !
In short, memorable if not always great speeches have happened at conferences of all the main parties. However, I look to Labour, Greens, the miniscule Liberal Party as well as the Lib Dems for a source of progressive ideas and as an alternative to political conservativism. No-one has a monopoly on good ideas.
A summary of the Conference 2006 season so far [and this without any reference to Torquay United's minor league rivals Exeter City !] ;
Lib Dem Conference - a good week, some quality debates and the tax proposals are genuinely radical. Content-wise a good speech from Ming - a 7/10. But the delivery and lack of obvious warmth and passion marks him down a little. The 'image building' PR attempts in respect of Ming truly were nonsensical and counter productive.
Chales Kennedy had a horrendously difficult task in trying to say something interesting whilst not deliberately upstaging Ming. Now, whilst he's good on TV I don't think he's the great public speaker many Lib Dems would say. What I saw / heard from Charles was rather worthy but dull, as inevitablty it had to be.
Nick Clegg ? I'm not as great a fan of him as many. A bit Blair-like. Well delivered, some soundbite grabbing ideas and scored well with both Lib Dems and the public alike I should think. Well, the public, as in the political anoraks that watch the conferences on the box ! 8/10 for delivery and 7/10 for content. Trouble is his persona comes across as a kind of liberal or Liberal younger Blair ! To have Blair and his Tory clone Cameron is quite enough. Maybe his relatively youthful [in political terms] 'poshness' is distracting me.
Labour ? A memorable speech by Tony Blair brilliantly delivered. It was like a 'Greatest Hits' package with all the duff stuff conveniently left out. Blair at his best and worst. He connects well at this level, especially to the public. There were flashbacks to the Blair of '97 and not the shop-soiled goods of 2006. 9/10 for delivery, content 7 if you're a Labourite, otherwise 6/10.
Gordon Brown ? Shameless attempt to deny his weaknesses. Ergo, his claim to want to empower local authorities and send power downwards. You've had nine years to do this, instead the author of much domestic policy has proven to be a great centraliser. Sounded pretty much like 'more of the same' to me, but minus the insincerity and sleaze, as befits a former son of the manse. Usual, OK but dull, from the Chancellor. I'm not really sure he is the person to renew NuLab.
The Tories ? Next week lets see more of Norman Tebbit, Edward Leigh. Andrew Rosindell and the incomparable John Redwood, to remind us how awful they were and still are, beyond 'Dave's' slick salesmanship.
Oh how I love and hate the party conference season !