Impressions of the LibDem Party Conference…
Yellow is a strange colour.
It’s just not that sexy.
If someone approached you in the street with their eyes gleaming like a born again evangelist with a yellow pullover on you would probably back off. A yellow tie is even weirder. There’s hardly any football teams that play in yellow and that’s pretty amazing when you consider how few colours there are to go around.
Yellow is not a very rock n roll colour, it’s the name of Coldplay’s first single, which is quite apt as when you are in the middle of a sea of yellow at a LibDem conference. It’s like being at a Coldplay gig. It’s not that hard to imagine Nick Clegg playing bass for the multi million selling nice band and not looking that much out of place which says everything about him or them that you need to know.
I’m here in Birmingham watching ‘the party that put the brakes on the Tories’ and wondering just who are the LibDems, trying to make sense of the sea of yellow, trying to work out what they stand for and why they are here. Who are these people? who with a ‘landslide’ of 50 odd MPs in the least election virtually took over the country with a section of the cabinet that no one can name in a very British coup.
I’ve been here all day and I’ve met a lot of thoroughly decent people, some are quite earnest, many are good fun, some even know their underground music inside out. There are the usual clutch of thrusting political yuppies that spring up when a party gets a whiff of power who talk about politics and not people and a collection of cabinet ministers who look like the classic bullied at school geeks who have suddenly got to hang out with the school bully.
There are even some of the old school beard and sandals brigade- oddly loveable old school liberals, ex hippie liberals caught up in the yuppification of the party like the real ale pub outside the conference centre surrounded the gleaming glass towers of regeneration that are all very dramatic but ultimately full of hot air like those nice boy indie bands that fill stadiums and get toes tapping and yawns stifled at rainswept British festival all summer long to the soundtrack of ‘Yellow’…
The beards are kept hidden by the PR scoundrels like the BNP hides it’s bully boys and look a bit lost in the confusion of power, a middle aged rump of a long lost party now surrounded by the trappings of power and the thrusting mates of the Tories.
There was a time when the LidDems were the loveable outsiders who promised everything because they would never have to deliver. Their leader was Charles Kennedy a decent cove who got derailed.
Now, by some mistake, they are in charge (ish) and have the corporate sheen of power all over their party. These are strange and confusing times for the yellows. They ooze a surprising confidence, like moonies or religious freaks who have got all glazed over by god or the strange scent of power.
There is talk of Labour been over for ever and the future of British politics being shared between the Tories and the LibDems. Things like opinion polls and streams of disaffected voters mean little in the world of the yellow Moonies and their vision of the future is delivered with such niceness that it’s difficult to dislike them, they just don’t do the sort of swaggering arrogance of parties with too much power preferring the low level hum of religious cult freaks.
Perhaps the strangest moment is when they gather en masse for the GleeClub, their comedy institution that has been part of party parlance for years where they deliver a series of songs and comedy sketches about politics and politicians. A series of sing songs about Paddy ‘ Hashdown’ and toking and minor titters about political targets which comes complete with it’s own fanzine like songbook. It’s the sort of thing that they could have got away with for years on end when no-one was looking but a big slick party with a bulbous PR machine would never allow. Is the GleeClub a good sign of a party that doesn’t take itself too seriously or a sign of a party that still can’t believe it’s in the big time?
Back in the hotel bar the all night party rumbles on, the LibDems I chat to are decent people who believe that their party is the only one with any real policies, the last political party and that they are holding back the posh prefects, the fixed grin David Watts and the endless millionaires of the Tories from going gung ho, shit crazy.
It’s a romantic notion from which they may never recover.
The bar is full of al the shades of yellow from the beards to the yellow Moonies to the thrusting neo-Tories, to avuncular librarians and Captain Mainwearing lookalikes from the shires, there are no big names, no stars, they are the sort of people that no -one ever notices, the real middle England who do the decent thing and keep their lawns well clipped. They now find themselves peering into the Daily Mail and nodding in agreement, they are filled with a strange inner joy and cult like floatiness. These are their good times, the times when they took over the asylum with a polite shuffle.
I speak to loads of them, lots of thoroughly nice, decent people, lots of yellow, lots of faraway gazes and shiny happy people and still know nothing about them…like Coldplay