There are three people who came out well from last week's conference in Bournemouth and none of them are politicians. I would single out Nick Pisani, Steve Hilton and Sam Roake for special commendation. Nick Pisani is the former editor of Question Time, who has recently taken over as the Party's Director of Presentation. He was responsible in large part, with Steve Hilton, for the staging of the conference and its tone.
It was the most professional looking conference the Party has staged for many years. It looked great on TV and the format was excellent. Francis Maude and the Conference Committee had fashioned an excellent conference agenda which had just the right mix of propoer debate and speech making. The Dragons' Den idea worked well and the hot topic debates provided a welcome contrast to the usual format. I also thought the mix of outside speakers was excellent.
Sam Roake is the Party's new Internet Director. He was behind the WebCameron idea. Whatever you think of it, it got a huge amount of publicity this week and if you believe, as I do, that this sort of thing is vital if we are to win the political campaign on the internet, Sam Roake deserves a lot of credit. He and Francis Maude were instrumental in getting the blogging stand an exhbition space despite being thwarted at every stage by the conference organisers. Sam's next task will be to give the Party's website a much needed overhaul. It's really creaking with age now and needs to be replaced completely within the next twelve months.
Tim Montgomerie on ConservativeHome has today published what activists think of the Shadow Cabinet at the moment and has evaluated their performances at Bournemouth. Click HERE.
All in all I don't think anyone, apart from Francis Maude (and possibly Boris Johnson!), had a bad week. Francis took the fallout from the passes fiasco but as Tim Montgomerie points out, it wasn't really his fault.
Many blame Francis Maude for the accreditation chaos. I'm not sure that that's fair. The Dorset police and CCO Conferences (a separate company whose contract is about to expire) probably share the real blame and I hope Francis will put some independent grassroots activists in charge of an enquiry into the accreditation problems.
The conference organisation is carried out by a separate company, CCO Conferences, and their utter failure to handle the registration process properly, despite years of experience, is inexcusable. But even then it certainly wasn't all their fault. Dorset Police deserve a lot of the blame and I hope they will be big enough to accept it and apologise.
It must never happen again. And next year, we all have to endure Blackpool again. I've written on that subject before so I'll restrict myself to saying that I hope it's for the last time. There are now doubts about whether we will return to Bournemouth in 2008. I reckon we should look at going back to Brighton again.