And so it arrives. The Carnival of Clowns that is the annual Conservative Party Conference – our governors have rolled into town. The brutal, ugly steel fencing that surrounds the area covering the Midland Hotel and the Conference Centre guards the brutal, ugly politics that will come from within it, giving the impression of a party, and a government, under siege. As you walk past in daylight the structure of the fencing gives off an opaque quality so, like latter day Gorgons, the face of Conservatism cannot look you directly in the eye but from the elevated floors of the Midland Hotel it can, and does, look down upon you.
The single file parade of delegates wearing identity lanyards like talismans of privilege, imagining themselves as one of the less reprehensible characters from The Thick Of It form the umbilical cord from hotel to conference centre, closely guarded by the blue-blazered, privatised security sentinels of G4S, manning protected turnstiles that act as some kind of metaphor for the party itself: forbidding, censorious and excluding. This, the proud banner exclaims, is The Party Of Hardworking people. Nice hard work if you can get it.
Over the next few days, occupying the same space as the Peterloo Massacre where, in 1819 over a dozen people were killed when they gathered to listen to speeches about parliamentary reform and equality a succession of ministers will give speeches telling you that giving money to rich people keeps them happy and productive while giving money to poor people make them lazy and complacent. The North is already being discussed like it’s a separate country and nobody sees the irony in that and the NHS is something we should all be proud of, as long as you don’t get sick.
But all the talk, the speeches, the turd-polishing and promises of jam tomorrow is just preaching to the choir. Conference is mostly packed with single interest lobbyists while the rank and file stay at home and whine about house prices and pensions and while these sharp-suited, policy twonk attendees are meant to be the best and the brightest the country has to offer, their mere presence still somehow manages to lower the collective IQ of the city by a couple of points for the short time they are here. Largely confined to hotel and conference centre by day, few of them venture out after dark and when they do leave the heavily guarded compound they seem to buzz around aimlessly, not quite sure on what to do, where to go or how to conduct themselves beyond their restricted gated community. Another metaphor perhaps, this time for the Lib Dems.
So, Conservative Party Conference. Enjoy your stay and make the most of the city. It really is a great place to be, despite your best efforts. Get up there on your little podium and say what you’ve got to say, pack up your tents and then go home. Make the most of it while you can because you won’t be back here. Not again. Not while you’re in government.
Welcome to Manchester.
All words by Robert Pegg. More of Robert’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.