Saturday, 4 October 2014

Notes from a blue corner: post conference blues...

Rest assured, dear reader that I will be posting on the second half of my trip to Vienna soon. I just felt, as a fellow interested in the political welfare of this green and pleasant land, that I would commit some thoughts to the web casting in another penny to the eternal fountain of the misinformed and the misguided.

So far it has been quite the conference season with Ed Miliband apparently forgetting his lines and David Cameron offering a barnstorming, pre-election rally cry for the rank and file… Of course, this has been punctuated by scandal and defection. It seems that the usual, healthy dose of power, corruption and lies is alive and well in our democracy! 

On the face of it, there is good reason for some optimism from my very much blue corner. Strong policy statements were made, coupled with some tough economic proposals, which directly benefited the rank and file Tory voter. It’s no wonder that Osborne got a standing ovation; with calls to freeze working benefits and to abolish taxes on pension pots it’s the bread and butter that delegates lapped up with glee.

It all sounds so good but, having been to a few Conservative conferences and having worked on the last election campaign we once again risk sacrificing common sense and hard campaigning for a few buzzwords and a large dollop of style over substance.

It has been a tough five years and although I started it on the inside, I have spent the large part of it as an observer in the private sector - at the lower end of the professional pay spectrum for that matter! The Coalition was built on ‘such high hopes and great expectations’ and has, for the large part, been a government of unrivalled reforming zeal, tackling social institution in dire need of fresh thinking and a kick up the arse.

However, it was as much a poison chalice, as reality bit the main actors have found that their popularity has decreased and inherent problems in the system, from weak border administration to failing IT networks, have come to bite them in the goolies through either voter apathy or outright opposition. With the election looming and the threat of fringe parties biting at the heals the main players, especially the Conservatives are desperately looking for fresh appeal! 

As such this seemed to be a conference where the powers that be were intent on making amends with the grass roots and UKIP waiverers for some of their more unpopular policies, offering a portfolio of bread and circuses for those less inclined to the ‘softer’ side of their recent policy making.  

While there was a great deal of nostalgic posturing throughout the conference on past achievements, it seemed that there was little focus on selling it to make a convincing case for the next five years.  At least, that’s how it felt to liberal, middle class muggins like me! I wanted to hear grand strategy, scare-mongering, and some of the dirty-hands ‘ticking tax time bomb’ rhetoric of the days when they employed the likes of the Saatchi’s and Lord Bell – a bit of street fighting. I was in no such luck.

It is also a case that much of the scant tough-rhetoric is a little too late, why wasn’t our leader saying this for the past five years, seeding soundbytes and policy snippets into the hearts and mind? Perhaps as a nation  we are too lilly-livered to hear a few home truths, or maybe we have no taste for it.

Perhaps it has something to do with Cameron’s distinct lack of warmth as a speaker. I do not doubt his conviction, although it is quite idiosyncratic and subtly dogmatic, but he does not express empathy and a robust personality. I think him rather socially blasé (masked by a thin and wearying veneer of  worry and concern) but, I am realistic, he is very much the lesser of three evils. He speaks competently but not engagingly, he’s an intelligent man but, like most intelligent men, he is no salesman and it is this latter quality (backed by sound advisers) that the party needs.

I want to see a charismatic, ruthless leader with some fire in their eyes. This sallow lot don’t have it, at least not yet. I want to see some emotion come to the fore, a leader storm off the stage in disgust, unhooking the microphone using some expressive body language to make their point. All I see at the moment is off the rack M&S suits, hideous one-colour ties (purple or nuclear green – take your pick) on white shirts, nervousness and a distinctly patrician air. Where are the colourful characters like Heseltine and Clarke or the sagely minds of a Whitelaw of a Hurd to back them?

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of seeing Dave, George, Boris and co in high-vis jackets on building sites or pootling around urban centres looking like morons. Right now I want to see them on the soapbox convincing the public why the Conservative way is the right way. It seems not to have hit home yet that Miliband could very easily be elected on default in May 2015 with the appalling Harman, Balls and co as his inner counsel.

Lads, for once can we avoid another f*%! up and make sure we seal the deal on this one once and for all? I’m hopeful we’ll see sense, but don’t bet your money on it! 

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