Reflective Thoughts on Conference Season 2013

Each autumn politicians take the stage at their annual conferences. We hear the rhetoric, read the reports, digest the News, and then most is forgotten by the time Guy Fawkes’ activities are remembered, and perhaps by then our sympathies lie with him.

In recent times, political conferences have become increasingly stage-managed, and very little real conferring takes place. Most attending the Tory Conference were not party members at all – they were in the majority lobbyists. While the Labour Conference showed a break from New Labour, there is much to be done before it could be regarded as democratic and representative. Some may feel the staged approach is inevitable with today’s media coverage, others that it is irrelevant as the media has been opened up to the people through Twitter and social media. Consider the response to the Mail’s article – it has indeed resulted in a backlash, yet those who believe it all will carry on reading it, and those who comment would not believe one sentence in its loathsome pages.

However, all parties are aware that turn-outs have been falling,  apathy reigning as people say, “They’re all the same.” There are signs that is about to change. There are clear signs of a rejection of neoliberalism by Labour. Against Cameron and Clegg, the electorate see a man of integrity, his “geekness’ image clearly fading. The Daily Mail may have helped that perception, not by its readers, but by the Liberal Left, by The Greens, by the young…. by women. These are the votes Labour lost. The Tories know this, and that is why there will be no let up to their austerity policies whatever the rhetoric. There is a long, painful road to 2015. The political war is just beginning.

Liam R. Carr’s article briefly reviews this year’s Political Conference season. There have been some defining moments. Time will tell how enduring those moments will be.

Conference 2013 – Not just for Politics Geeks

Looking back at the leaders conference speeches by Ed Miliband and David Cameron tell us a lot both about the two party leaders themselves and about the priorities a future government.

Ed started by thanking his partner Justine, Dave mentioned that his wife ran a small business, which must have been pretty straightforward to set up when Dad is a millionaire.

There was a contrast in styles, there is no argument that Ed is an impressive public speaker, he delivered his conference speech in his now trademark style; on an X-factor type stage with no notes and no auto-cue. Dave read his speech from a lectern the delivery was super confident, often staring straight down the TV camera lens and pointing his finger. One pro Labour commentator tweeted that “Ed Miliband has changed the accepted norm for conference speeches Cameron was dull, slow paced and dated”.

Ed attacked current Tory policy and the lack of growth. Dave attacked Labour, persisting with the “mess Labour left” and pleading with the country to let him “finish the job”. There was not a trace of humility or even an acknowledgement that Tory policies are not currently working ‘for hardworking people’.

The media focus was on Labours energy price freeze. The Tory plan to stop social security payments to anyone under the age of 25 will grab the headlines. There are are questions to be answered about both policies. Will the energy companies, who made profits of £3.7Bn this year, really hold the a Labour Government to ransom by threatening power cuts? Would a Tory government really stop housing benefit payments to a 23 year old single parent?

The difference in the priorities of the two main parties is now clear:

Tories remain the party supported by and supporting big business. Cameron insisted that profit is not a dirty word. Ed made a distinction between small and large businesses: Labour will increase corporation tax but reduce business rates for small and medium sized companies. This redistribution is quite logical as if you add all the people employed in small businesses they vastly outnumber those employed by huge corporations.

Ed is on the side of the consumer when it comes to energy prices. Dave remains on the side of the energy companies, relaxing their green energy targets.

Ed is humble about the past mistakes of Labour Government, Dave remains arrogant and bullish pointing out that everything is up, up, up! but failing to mention that the cost of living is also up, up up and wages for everyone other than bankers are down, down, down.

The has been some interest in these conference speeches from people other than politics geeks. Political commentators are saying that at least you can tell the difference between the two parties again. The greens are against fracking, even in the ‘desolate North’ which is a sensible and popular standpoint. Despite the ‘rise’ of UKIP, Europe was not high on the Tory agenda. The LibDem conference was spent hedging bets: The leadership are hoping for another coalition; the grassroots are hoping for a miracle.

The next general election will be hard fought. We have seen the Daily Mail stoop so low to attack a party leader’s late father. Tory spin consultant Lynton Crosby will ensure that the fight will be fought in the gutter of politics.

New Labour is dead. Compassionate Conservatism is being killed off. I am hopeful for change. I don’t want the Tories to finish their job of making the rich so rich that the poor might, by chance, be pulled out of poverty by osmosis. It is Labour who should be given the chance to build an economy that works for all.

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