The main conference floor has been a bit dull this year, but of course it is hard to announce major policy successes when the Commons are so deadlocked that nothing new can be done. It is a rally of the faithful, but a jar to see some of the faithless there too; the whipless ones. That said, there is more to Conservatism than one policy and when Brexit is over and done (in four and a half weeks, we hope, desperately) then we can re-examine who our friends are.
Off the main floor is where the real activity is. I cannot count the number of side meetings and fringe events there are: ‘fringe’ is a misnomer as I am convinced more good policy is worked out here than anywhere else, and more daft policy too.
The policy announcements we have heard often involved spending a lot of other people’s money. That is a bad sign. What else do you say though? ‘Less money for the feckless!’ Maybe not. Then there is the idea of longer prison sentences, which seems to be backed by no evidence that it will do any good and might be meant just as a dig at David Gauke, who had a more sensible policy. (He’s about, by the way, whipless but waiting.) Still, give Priti Patel her hour in the sun. Sajiv Javid suddenly speaking Punjabi went down well (yes; I’m sure they are very proud of you.)
It all feels like marking time. It is not even a pre-general election rally.
Back to the bars and side rooms, there are keen, enthusiastic councillors and ex-councillors (been there, mate) all anxious to talk at anyone who will listen, hoping they happen to speak to someone influential, and others who actually are influential even if I have never heard of them: I never know anyone and I tend to be left out of the circle.
So, few positive promises. A deadlocked parliament is not such a bad thing usually as it means less opportunity for well-meaning or publicity seeking members to stick their big feet in and get in the way of those of us trying to lead our lives. However after so many decades of idiotic intervention of that sort, some corrective is needed, and that needs a working Parliament.
One diversion has been logging the jokes from the podium, good and bad. I should spare the Lancastrian blushes of one of the most able and promising ministers who dropped the worst joke so far. We’ve a long way to go yet
Maybe the Conference needs a stand-up comedian. Ah – but his is the keynote speech.
Now I almost wish that I were actually at the conference.
By Boris Johnson:
- Seventy-Two Virgins
- The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History
- The Dream of Rome
- Have I Got Views For You
- The Spirit of London
- Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World
- The Path to Power by Margaret Thatcher
- The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher
- Statecraft by Margaret Thatcher
- On Europe by Margaret Thatcher
- Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, by Charles Moore:
- Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality by Jonathan Aitken
- Margaret Thatcher in Her Own Words (CD-Audio, ed. Ian Dale)
By David Cameron
By Tim Bale
- The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron
- The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change
- Footsoldiers: Political Party Membership in the 21st Century by Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- Making a Success of Brexit and Reforming the EU by Roger Bootle
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe by Denis MacShane
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Brexit: How Britain Left Europe by Denis MacShane
- Beyond Brexit: Towards a British Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath
- The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay (1841)
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B Peterson
- Political Correctness Gone Mad?, by Jordan B. Peterson, Stephen Fry, Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg