Sunday, 14 October 2012

Another conference season

That's it, then, is it? All the party conferences over and done with. Did anyone in the real world notice?

I read some commentators claiming that Ed Miliband's speech was 'a game-changer', and then some others (though not so many) making the same claim for David Cameron.

Just in case it's not entirely obvious: neither of those things is true. Nothing happened.

For the Liberal Democrats, that's okay. Only bad stuff was ever a possibility, so no news was about as good as it was going to get.

For Labour, Miliband still doesn't look like a serious candidate to be prime minister. And all that stuff about 'one-nation Labour', haven't we heard that before? Yes we have, back in 1995 when John Prescott launched exactly the same slogan at the Labour conference. So Miliband is seeking to overcome the Blairite-Brownite legacy by outing himself as a Prescottian. There's progress for you.

But since purloining slogans is the sum total of modern political oratory, Cameron responded by declaring himself in favour of 'privilege for all', in the same way that Tony Blair used to talk about 'excellence for all'. Both cases insult the English language and the intelligence of the electorate in equal measure.

The truth is that this isn't a time for new policies. Politics itself is in suspended animation, waiting to see how long it will be before there's a genuine economic recovery (which is not the same as a set of quarterly figures showing a 0.2 per cent growth in GDP).

Is there any point to these conferences? They don't even get to the end of the week anymore, as though even they can't be bothered to make the effort. Nor is anyone else interested. Question Time last week got straight on to the real news story of the week: Jimmy Savile.

(Just in passing, there was a campaigner on the wireless last week arguing that those charged with underage sex shouldn't have a jury trial, because ordinary people don't understand the complexities of paedophile psychology. Instead he called for the equivalent of Diplock courts.)

Now that it's clear that the conferences are a waste of time, can't we save on the cost of televising and policing them? Let's have done with the pretence and adopt the American model of each party having just one big whooping rally in election year. We could fill up the television time with a three-week snooker tournament. In which case, I think my money would be on Nick Clegg.

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