Politics through the looking glass – Brighton and Manchester

9 October 2015, Blog

My receptions at Brighton and Manchester were in stark contrast to each other, and rather summed up the current standing of the two parties. Sunshine by the seaside and not even a pat-down by the security staff in Brighton, versus placards, abuse, the odd projectile and a full shake-down in Manchester.

Deckchairs, charities and cheerful fringe events, versus grey skies, corporates and business-like discussions. I couldn’t help but feel whilst in Brighton I was with a surprisingly (given the defeat) cheerful party who were quite enjoying a holiday from their senses, when in Manchester I was with a surprisingly (given the victory) sensible bunch who were getting their heads round the fact they’re actually going to be governing for the next 5 years.

The only thing in common with the two parties it seemed was the fact that neither of their leaders were likely to be fighting the 2020 election. It was an odd moment at Labour conference watching a shadow cabinet minister, Lord Falconer, refuse to answer the simple question “can you see your leader as Prime Minister?” – arguably a prerequisite for being the leader of the opposition. Much as it was odd to hear a room full of agreement at a Conservative fringe event where a Tory Minister said that Norman Lamb (a Liberal Democrat) was one of the best health ministers we’ve ever had. We are apparently down the rabbit hole.

In regards to the angry, ball-throwing protesters, I think there was a quiet pride among Conservative delegates that people cared enough to picket their conference. One Cabinet Minister of a certain age was heard to say “ah, it’s like the good old days.” Conservative MPs and Ministers on panels were having to answer questions from the point of view of what they “will do”, not what they “would like to do.” At the Labour events I went to there was little commitment to doing anything in particular.

What felt for certain was that our politics is not in the position it was expected to be just a few months ago, and that sense permeated through the atmosphere at both conferences. David Cameron himself acknowledged in his closing speech that his bin bags had been ready in No 10 because you had to “be ready for anything.” And apparently in UK politics at the moment anything can and will happen.

Come conference season 2016 I’m sure both parties will have reconciled to their new standing, but until that point I’m rather enjoying looking through the looking glass. That is why to help you all with this topsy-turvy political world of ours we have updated our ‘political snapshot’ as your quick guide to the Parliament’s ones-to-watch.

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