Tory conference hangover: Where art thou besiegers?

Where were the reds at this years conference? I almost missed them...

by Henry Hill on 16 October 2012 16:17

There are some things that are a key ingredient of the conference experience. The hit and miss fringe, the congenial ‘debates’ where all the parties agree with each other, and the mystifying presence of the NASUWT stall bleating about “the government’s recession” all serve as comforting reminders that yes, conference season is here.

But something important was missing this year. Where on earth were the reds?

A good way to assess the efficacy of the Conservative Party in a given year is to take a look at the calibre of the people laying siege to our conference. What does it say about us that the only picket I had to cross this year was being run by some bizarre ‘Save the Badgers’ campaign?

Even they only managed a single day. For the rest of conference their place was taken by a desultory handful of CND banners, some authoritarian anti-tobacco people, and a pair of what looked like evangelical Christians. Sometimes, the number of people challenging the delegates was smaller than the number of people thrusting The House magazine and the ConHome paper at them.

I’m certain the usual legion of students, subsidised union members, and Bolsheviks turned out to have a good shout and a walk as usual. Some crowd made a good fist of trying to shout down the various speakers at the ConHome event on Sunday morning (although that might have been the badger brigade just outside). Is there some reason they were so invisible?

Perhaps I simply missed them, or maybe the West Midlands Police are exceptionally good at their jobs. Either way, their absence sapped the conference experience of some of its usual frisson.

In an age when conference offers next to no interaction between the membership and their party, the fact that a host of leftists were really annoyed by the very fact of your presence provided one of the best justifications for turning up.

Last year I had to actually cross the march (in a suit, with a pass) in order to reach the venue, which was perhaps too intense, but surely we can arrange some form of compromise?

Perhaps next year the march could pass on one side of a specially-erected transparent barrier, and interested delegates could sit sipping coffee and exchanging rude hand gestures with the massed socialists on the other side.

It sounds more fun than half the fringe.

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