Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yes, folks, the three ring circus of the Political Party Conference season is in full swing.
It may have started a while ago with furtive gatherings of the `minor` parties - the Greens, the assorted Nationalists, the Monster Raving Loonies and the Flat Earth Society - but I confess that they must have passed me by.
No, the first of the main performers in the main ring were the Liberal Democrats who met last week in Bournemouth (good choice.) Their conference seemed to go off fairly quietly and was subject to rather restrained coverage by `the media.` No great surprises, no earth shattering promises although there was another vague whisper to `prepare for government,` a la David Steel all those years ago. Not much to say about it really - the LibDems just got on with it and seemed content to be left in relative peace. The feeling was entirely mutual.
This week we have had the governing Labour Party meeting in Manchester (a long walk from the beach.) The turmoil of the last week or so in the financial world and the rumblings about Gordon Brown`s position as Prime Minister and Party Leader overshadowed any idea that there might have been any great policy surprises. Yes, there were some promises yesterday about free prescriptions for cancer patients which was welcome and some other ideas about free internet access and other stuff, but the media attention seemed to be focussed on Brown` performance and the rather sinister, adolescent, self-advancing posturing of David ("Me, me, please, Miss") Miliband.
I feel a bit sorry for Brown, for it cannot be healthy to be so beleagured, especially by upstart novices like Miliband. Between them they begin to resemble Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and I`m not sure it`s good for them, the Labour Party or, more importantly, the rest of us.
And so on to next week`s Conservative Party gathering in, of all places, Birmingham. I don`t know why the conferences are held in the order they are. I would have thought that, a bit like party political broadcasts before an election, the party in government went last. But no. As a result, the Conservatives have the advantage of sitting back and listening to the rest of them and are thus able to respond to what`s been said in Manchester and elsewhere. I suspect there will be no great policy surprises, no earth shattering promises but there might be a more audible whisper to `prepare for government` - they`re all at it.
The real stuff of politics
The converted will be preached to yet again, the dewey-eyed will stand to applaud their leaders once more, the media will indulge in yet another deluge of coverage and opinion, while the rest of us just get on with our lives and breathe a sigh of relief that the three ring circus has left town for another year. And be left to worry about the price of gas, electricity, petrol, bread, milk, marmite and Tunnock`s Tea Cakes - the real stuff of politics -none of which will have been touched on by anyone in the conference halls of the last month. Send in the clowns? Don`t worry, they`re here.

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