Thursday, October 08, 2009

Reflections on the Conference

First of all, a heartfelt apology. I know I have been a useless blogger this week. I always find it difficult to do good blogging at conferences. This year, for some reason, I just couldn't motivate myself to blog much. It was partly that I didn't go into the conference hall much, partly that my schedule didn't allow much free time, and partly that I was completely dog tired, having got between three and four hours sleep a night. Anyway, I realise it's not good enough and I have let down my readers. Normal service will now resume.

I've been going to party conferences for 25 years. This one has been by far the most enjoyable. It was great to meet so many of my blogreaders, and I was delighted that more than 250 of you came to my blogreaders party last night at the City Inn. A good time seemed to be had by all, and I think everyone agreed that Steve Nallon (pic) was brilliantly funny. I certainly don't regret that I got a comedian to do a turn rather than a politician! Thanks again to Chartwood and City Inn Hotels for their kind sponsorship.

Manchester was a great venue for the conference. A high standard of hotels (I can highly recommend the Manchester City Inn), and a superb conference centre contributed to a really enjoyable week. The exhibition felt like a real exhibition and I suspect the stands got a much higher level of traffic than normal. The avenue of shops was a great innovation.

Politically, it was a good week to be a Tory. The media tried their best to whip up a split over Europe, but no one bit. The usual suspects managed to keep their gobs shut, thereby proving that a degree of internal discipline is sometimes no bad thing. Chris Grayling's 'gaffe' over General Dannatt never caught fire and apart from that there didn't seem to be any queasy moments.

The Pride event was attended by more than 650 people and was a triumph for all those involved in its organisation. Scott Seaman-Digby, CCHQ's commercial director, and his colleague Eugene Keane deserve massive credit for having the idea, driving it forward and making it such a success. Even Ben Summerskill couldn't spoil it by his ridiculous decision to boycott it. He proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he and Stonewall are leftist puppets. He first of all said he wouldn't go because of Michal Kaminski - the same Michal Kaminski who held exactly the same post as leader of the European Reform Group when he accepted the invitation. What changed in between? Nothing. It's very sad that he and the other small band of protesters couldb't see beyond their party political blinkers and bring themselves to acknowledge that the Conservatives have made huge strides in this area. I have to say that hosting this event was a little outside my comfort zone. I'm not used to speaking in nightclubs but a couple or three WKD blue vodkas did the trick! Not bad for a teetotaller... Pity I hadn't done the same on Monday night when I made my first attempt at stand up comedy.

Another highlight of the week was the Total Politics fringe meeting on Trust with Dominic Grieve, Peter Oborne, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Anthony Seldon and Chris Bones. I doubt if there was a fringe meeting in the whole conference which had speeches better than those at this event.

Politically the two highlights of the conference were George Osborne's speech on Tuesday and David Cameron's speech today. George's speech was described the most risky speech I have heard in 30 years by John Pienaar. Some said it marked his coming of age. No one can now say the Conservatives are policy-lite in this field any longer. His speech really seems to have made people think and that's no bad thing. I don't really like the mantra of "We're All in This Together" because it sounds a little trite, but I've heard worse (remember Sharing the Proceeds of Growth?).

David Cameron's speech this afternoon was in stark contrast to Osborne's. There was some tough talk but he shared a vision of the kind of Britain he wanted to see and used some very optimistic language. His attacks on Gordon Brown worked well and he showed a real passion. It was a speech seeking to seal a deal with the concerns of those who are not yet convinced by Cameron as a person or his own brand of politics. It was light on policy details, but so it should have been. Other members of his team provided enough meaty proposals during the course of the week. What I wanted from Cameron was what I got - a total contrast to Gordon Brown's machine gun speech last week.

Most Embarrassing Moment of the Week: Almost falling asleep in a fringe meeting I was chairing ... while I was actually talking

Idiot of the Week: Ben Summerskill

Speech of the Week: George Osborne


Paul Halsall said...

I already commented on my blog(ette) that Summerskill's boycott was pointless.

I still hope Labour wins though.

[Even though I live in Manchster, I apologise for not coming, but HIV meds make it hard to be long away from a loo!]

Thatsnews said...

Glad the party went well, Iain. I'd have loved to have attended but the train service would not have allowed it. Pity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting about Ben Summerskill. I used to give money to Stonewall each month, until I learned that Ben Summerskill was on an enormous salary, far bigger than mine! (And when I stopped giving, they never asked me why.)

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I actually felt as if I was missing something.

As for Summerskill..

Stonewall's raison d'ĂȘtre is subversion and what used to be called agitprop. They exist to challenge and change societal views and actions on homosexual issues. Simply walking away from an event, is in my view and own goal, and looks churlish.

(from my blog

Your interview with Paxo was wonderful.

Ivor Biggun said...

Scott Seaman-Digby is CCHQ's commercial director? Last I heard he was in ladies underwear...

...working for Knickerbox, that is.

wv = rubnume - really!

Bon said...

Don't apologise Iain.
It might signal weakness!!

TBH, my BF and his parents are WELL Labour, but this week things changed. This Christmas we might all sit together (here in Spain admittedly) and as a group, say "Goodbye New Labour".

We formed a new company here for Ex-Pats. It is AMAZING the support we have had from other Ex-Pats. It is sad how Labour has driven money makers away.

Like Dizzy, I am a Linux devel, but Lab loves BIG accounts. Who pays the bills? If I got a gvt contract I'd be paying taxes to pay myself. Then quit the project and still get paid!

Iain, please bring some moderation back to the UK.

Dimoto said...

Apart from Cameron and Osborne, Hague's speech was a well crafted and delivered "conference speech" (as we have come to expect).

I particularly liked Gove's speech on education - time will tell whether he can manage delivery, and Ken Clarke's speech.
Ken was the only politician who really spelled out that the recovery will depend on business and therefore on business conditions. Most politicos love to exaggerate their power to actually effect things.

Also worthy of comment is the really dire standard of reportage and analysis. Andrew Neil, a very skilled and knowledgeable interviewer seems to prefer to play the clown these days, and Adam Boulton, once upon a time a balanced and thoughtful analyst, and now, since his marriage to Anji Hunter, just another pussy-whipped Labour apologist.

Is there any senior political analyst worth following these days ?

enquiringmind said...

Thanks for the apology Iain, and this interesting round-up by way of recompense.

Incidentally I'm sure Summerskill was no great loss to your gathering. Plonker.

Jimmy said...

"He first of all said he wouldn't go because of Michal Kaminski - the same Michal Kaminski who held exactly the same post as leader of the European Reform Group when he accepted the invitation."

Who accepted? Summerskill or Kaminski?

Savonarola said...

Well done Iain.

Newmania said...

Well I must say I have been a bit disppointed , no-one seems to be providing the sort of discussion I was hoping for

fyoc said...

I'm shocked - you had a drink? and more than one?!

I was looking forward to incisive commentary, snippets of gossip, exclusive scoops and the rest. Instead, it was like when you were in Devon - no blogging. In fact, I think I have a better idea of what you got up to while you were in Devon than what you got up to at the Tory Party conference.

MD said...

I think it was a good conference - Labour did everything they could to disrupt it via the media. Be of no doubt Mandelson and Ali C were trying to blow europe up.

I noticed they even released Flu statistics in the middle of Camerons speech! Talk about desperate! The By-election info being released yesterday was intriguing.

True Belle said...

Iain, life will get even busier for you in the run up to the election.

I enjoy reading your diary, your contributors are a pretty fair minded bunch too.

Don't become bogged down by too much political zealoTORY, you will lose sight of your fairmindedness.

Some seem to be attracted to one of the wealthiest clubs led by boy wonders D + G by virtue of association and intrigue and A list chatter. You have to cut away the 'powerpoint presentations ' to see what they are really saying.

Please continue as a shrewd honest observer of all things political.

Remember that YOU are being used as a political tool!

Harthacanute said...

"He proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he and Stonewall are leftist puppets"

Are you seriously telling us that one man's action, at one two-faced event, proves what a whole organisation stands for?

If so, then David Cameron and his smarmy gloss, his all words and no action rhetoric, his active support for Section 28 and his well documented almost total failure to support any LGBT equality issues, prove beyond any doubt the continued institutional bigotry of your beloved uncaring Conservative Party

Mrs Dale, grow up and - for once in your life - stop being such a weak lapdog to the hatemongers who are most at home with the extremist wingnuts of the far nationalistic right.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back.

can you remind guido to rejoin the `blogging game`

The highlights as you comment pretty good and to add, to todays good feeling was Christine Odone "doing over" Harridan Harman on `Today`
Her "Don`t you patronise me" really took Mrs Dromey aback


Hawkeye said...

Bon said: "Iain, please bring some moderation back to the UK."

It's not just Iain's job it is your job as well. Get back here and vote tory - vote labour out.

ExPats who have votes need to use them. If you want to return to moneymaking in the UK then vote! That's whole bl**dy idea! Anyone who buggers off abroad and then complains about how bad it is here and they how wish it was different has lost sight of what democracy is and how it works.

Get back here and vote!

Neopeitha said...

Methinks, Harthacanute, that you're in greater danger of sounding like the extremist wingnut...

tapestry said...

I'm a withdrawalist. Not a contraceptive practice, but a voter who has had enough of the EU.

The Lisbon/EU debate had to be shuffled off the stage, for obvious reasons.

But we had a Kenk Lark outburst, a rigged Irish Referendum result, a failure to position Lisbon, and nothing concrete to build on.

I'm not a ukipper. But I felt depressed at all the wonderful hopes and aspirations for caring and responsibility, being expressed, without addressing the reason few will ever be achieved.

Labour-under-EU might be simply the worst government possible, but Conservative-under-EU can only offer to be the merest touch better than that.

If Cameron wants to achieve all he says he does, he will need to win power. That does not mean merely winning the next election. It means withdrawing from the EU.

Has he got the balls?

He seems a nice guy, not selfish and ruthless enough, just like William Hague. Fighting evil empires is a bloody business, and I don't see any realisation of how tough the fight will be.

Of course I could be wrong.

But apologising for dressing up and getting pissed at aged 18 seems weak. Better done the Boris way, dead honest, fast, attacking, selfish and unapologetic.

Anonymous said...

It may have done it for you, but having been a Conservative voter all my life I will not vote for this bunch of lightweights.

Sidelining Europe was the most stupid thing to do. When the country silently is waiting for the promise of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty post ratification all we got was weasel words. The most important act a Conservative Party can make and Cameron ducked it. After the election he will not have a referendum. He cannot bring back powers to Britain, the rest will not allow it. Lisbon signed sealed and delivered is game set and match to the EU. It has always been a one way street.Cameron may have his seat at the council of ministers, but it leaves us being stuffed with more EU shite.

Give us back our parliament with MP's who can actually change things. Ditch the Treaty, get out of this corrupt organisation.

No referendum, no vote!

Lord Snooty said...

Inevitably, I saw it all quite differently from you, Iain. Osborne's speech confirmed to me that he is an unlikeable lightweight who carries no conviction at all - the ludicrous slogan 'we're in it together' just summing him up for me. Cameron's speech was quite a surprise - he seemed incredibly nervous, bordering on scared, and it really made me wonder if he wants this enough and if he's got the balls to do the top job. Overall, I'm still certain the Tories will win the election but I'm even less optimistic that they will prove to be anything other than a weak and incompetent government.

Jim Mogg said...

Harthacanute - that's a really strange thing to put. I understand completely that LGBT issues generally are really important to you but do you not think we've reached a stage where they are not the focus? The good thing about this blog is that the focus is much broader. Although I do run into bizarre examples of homophobia regularly, I'd say that on the whole the battle has been more or less won. The party that Iain hosted was obviously a good sidenote but surely we are all more concerned with the state of this country. Cameron does not come across as anti-gay and Stonewall's publicity stunt was entirely overstated.

cllrssd said...

Knickerbox was many moons ago, moved from underwear, to booze, then gambling and now politics.

Ideas for events in 2010 most appreciated - let us know your thoughts.

slever said...

I thought the the TP fringe was both the most interesting and enjoyable of the week. Steve Nallon had the whole room in stiches with his voices.

I have a shaky mobile video if you would like to see/publish (most) of it again.

Hope you don't mind me filming it.


Londoner too said...

If you had spent any time in the hall itself you would not have thought it was splendid. Terrible accoustics and a permanent hubbub from the exhibition area behind. And even less participation from "ordinary" party members than last year.

Quietzapple said...

George Osborne always has had a passion re Gordon Brown.

George is second class vs first class Gordon, so far as degree and much else is concerned.

It has long been quite open that he seeks to emulate the PM in every way, but falls short except in PR.

He is still motivated as many such creatures are by:

"If he can do it, why oh why can't I?"