ConHome Diary: A Tale of Two Conferences & I Reveal a Dark Secret
30 Sep 2016 at 14:56
I’ve been to between 50 and 60 party conferences over the years – Conservative, Labour and LibDem. This year’s Labour conference in Liverpool was undoubtedly one of the flattest ever. I’d be surprised if there were more than 40 MPs there. Many of the delegates spent most of their time at the rival Momentum event across town, which meant that at times it felt like tumbleweed was blowing through the conference centre. The commercial exhibition should have been renamed the Affiliated Labour Organisations Exhibition, seeing as most of the stands were organisations like the Cuban Solidarity Campaign, various trade unions and the Anti-Jewish Society. OK, I made that last one up. The only private sector exhibitors were the Royal Mail and Global Radio. Both stands would have cost an arm and a leg, yet on the party leader’s tour of the exhibition, Jeremy Corbyn blanked them both – not necessarily his fault, as he only goes where his staff lead him, I suppose, but even so, it’s yet another example of private business being treated like something they scrape off the bottom of their feet.
Last time I was in Liverpool, for the Labour conference in 2011, I got into trouble when I wrote a blogpost slagging off the hotel I was staying in (The Adelphi, since you ask) and saying that as a city, well., I just didn’t like it. Suddenly, I knew how Boris Johnson felt. I became public enemy number 1. There were phone-ins on local radio about me, so I was told. Indeed, I was summoned onto Radio City to explain myself. In the circumstances you have a choice. You either apologise fully and explain that you didn’t know what you were thinking and must have been having a bad day. Or you stick to your guns. I chose the latter course of action. Four years on, I have to say I felt things had changed. OK, my hotel may have been a bit dowdy, but it was perfectly acceptable. The docks area had been developed further and is really impressive, and judging from the three evening meals I had, the restaurants are superb. One meal at San Carlo was the best meal I have had this year. Many people confirmed my view that Liverpool ought to be a culinary destination in its own right. Who’d have thought?
Given that Brexit is the biggest political issue of the time, you might have thought there would have been a lot of time devoted to it at the Labour Conference, but no. Not only was there no debate on the conference floor, it didn’t even figure in any of the eight debates chosen by conference delegates. Jeremy Corbyn spent less than two minutes on it during his hour long speech. Quite incredible. Mind you, I’m not sure it will be a lot different in Birmingham next week. Foreign Affairs is covered on Sunday afternoon, traditionally a dead period in the conference agenda, mainly because half of the representatives won’t have arrived.
When my panel of experts convened to compile this year’s Top 100 People on the Right, I knew one of the most difficult things would be where to place last year’s number one, David Cameron. And indeed last year’s number two, George Osborne. You’ll be able to find out on Monday morning when the list appears here on ConservativeHome.
I hope some of you might want to come along to the ConHome Fringe meeting on Tuesday lunchtime, when I’ll be conducting an ‘In Conversation with David Davis’. It’s in Hall 1 of the ICC from 12.45-2pm. I’m also speaking at a FOREST/TMA fringe meeting on Monday evening from 9pm at the Nuvo Bar. It’s titled ‘Eat, Drink, Smoke, Vape’. I’ll be explaining why no one who calls themselves a Conservative can be in favour of things like a sugar tax. Given I don’t drink, smoke or vape, I’ve been mulling over why I’m an appropriate speaker at this event, but maybe that’s the point!
He’s been a fool and probably worse, but I can’t help feel sorry for Sam Allardyce. One can only imagine the personal humiliation he is feeling. I felt the same emotion towards Keith Vaz. Indeed, I always feel sorry for people involved in humiliating scandals. It’s so easy to join the mob who delight in condemning. It’s so easy to shout from the sidelines but perhaps we would all do better to look at our own lives. Few of us can put our hands on our hearts and say we lead totally blameless lives and that we have never done anything we wouldn’t be happy to see on the front page of a national newspaper. I suppose I should reveal my own dark secret which I would be ashamed to see on the front page of The Sun. Yes, I own 150 Cliff Richard CDs. Go on, do your worst.
I really hope that Theresa May and David Davis stick to their guns and don’t go into any detail at all on their strategy to leave the EU. Only a fool gives away their negotiating position at the beginning of negotiation. You’d have thought that Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke might realise this, but oh no. The three of them helpfully appear on the media to tell the world that the government is in a mess and have no clue what they are doing. Like they’re in any position to know. If they actually had the interests of their country or their party at heart they would shut the **** up. But their desire to remain relevant to the debate trumps every other consideration. Their only relevance to this debate is that they were and are on the wrong side of the argument, and cannot accept that the British people didn’t take their oh so wise advice and vote ‘Remain’. My advice to them is that they should only open their mouths if they have something helpful to say. If they have anything unhelpful to say, maybe they should say it in private to Theresa May or David Davis. And then prepare themselves for the response…