8 Oct 2011 at 20:11
- Well, that’s the party conference season over and done with for another year. I’m beginning to question the point of them to be honest. I went to all three this year for work related reasons and looking back, and given the choice, I wouldn’t have bothered with any of them. The LibDems can at least maintain that they discuss policy at their conference, but now they are in government even their conference was far more stage managed than usual. The Labour and Conservative conferences are both American style rallies or conventions, where party members are preached at rather than consulted. Never, in my 25 years of attending Tory conferences (how sad does that make me sound?) have I seen empty spaces in the auditorium for the leader’s speech. The sad truth is that these events are now more like commercial exhibitions than conferences, and party members are fed up with being exploited. The fact that the conferences have moved from seaside resorts to faceless and expensive conference centres in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool means that for most people it is now costing upwards of £500 to attend a conference. Any normal person would spend that on a weekend in Rome. Unless the parties do something radical and quickly and reform party conferences so that party members get something out of them, the events have a maximum shelf life of three years.
- Next week I’m off to the Frankfurt Book Fair. I haven’t been there for about eight years. The aim is to identify foreign published books that I think could work in this country. Next year my company, Biteback, aims to publish 120-140 books, which is double what we did this year. People say that the book is dead. They could hardly be more wrong. Hardback sales may be on the decline, but paperbacks are doing OK and we are now experiencing the inevitable rise of the e-Book. Personally I don’t ever want to read a book on a Kindle or an iPad, but I accept that I am fighting against the forces of progress and we are now digitising our entire backlist catalogue. Frankfurt is a pretty ghastly city, but I am looking forward to my visit as it is a rare chance for me to speak a bit of German. I used to speak the language fluently, but it’s a bit rusty nowadays. Tatsaechlich!
- Many of you have emailed asking how our two new puppies are settling in. Dude and Bubba are now just over three months old and are getting on like a house on fire. They are both very different characters. Dude, the Jack Russell, is super-intelligent, while Bubba is, well, a bit of a thicko. I’m not even sure he knows his name yet. But he is a delightful and very loving little dog. I’ve never had a mini Schnauzer before, but he’s a great addition to the family. Their toilet habits still leave a lot to be desired, but that’s the only bad thing I can say about them. They seem to have on/off switches. They’re either acting like Duracell bunnies and creating havoc or they’re asleep. There doesn’t seem to be a middle way.
- Friday marked the tenth anniversary of the first NATO action against Afghanistan. It’s been a tough ten years for all involved. This conflict has lasted for four years longer than the Second World War and it’s one for which politicians still find it difficult to articulate the mission. The nightmare is that we start to withdraw our troops and within a short time the Taliban return. If that happens, the families of those who have lost their lives can reasonably ask: what was it all for?
- I must be mad. I recently attended a charity fundraiser for the James Whale Kidney Cancer Fund. I knew that extorting money out of everyone there would be a major part of the evening, even though we had all spent a fortune on the tickets. And so it proved. They had a silent auction and one of the lots was a Stand Up Comedy course. I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a comedian so I put in a bid, albeit one which was less than half the anticipated price. To my horror I won. Readers may remember than two years ago I did perform a stand up turn at a comedy gig at a party conference and rather enjoyed it. I even got some laughs. Which was nice. I now have to go on this course and then perform at a proper comedy club in central London. It could all go very, very wrong.
- Quantitative Easing. There. You’ve switched off already, haven’t you? But you shouldn’t, because it’s vital that people understand what it means. Essentially it’s the printing of money. The government has just injected £75 billion of QE into the economy in a desperate attempt to kickstart growth. It didn’t work before when Gordon Brown did it, and it won’t work now. All it will do is fuel inflation in the long term, and there is no more insidious economic disease than inflation. It appears today’s politicians have failed to learn the lessons of the 1970s. This is hardly a surprise as many of them weren’t born then and don’t bother reading history books.
- This column appeared in Saturday’s Eastern Daily Press