I cannot recall a more depressing month of Party Conferences than the one we’ve just had and yet, it’s the only party not to have held a conference that is getting all the media attention. Perhaps they don’t have enough members to hold a meaningful get-together but a bunch of right-wing, ex- Tories calling themselves the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) appear to be the only ones that the media seem to be interested in. Which means that soon everybody (that’s everybody apart from me and you) will have assumed that UKIP are the party to vote for and before you can say “Bloody hell, is it June already?” the buggers will be in government. I don’t object to them having elected members of Parliament; groups of mixed individuals each with their own experiences and perspectives on life will always be preferable to a bunch of clones but I don’t want UKIP anywhere near Number 10 Downing Street.
So, what went wrong with the Party Conferences in the first place? To begin with, Labour kicked off the season with a lacklustre performance from each of its’ players; ministers who in opposition, are required to come up with ideas designed to gather public support and put their party in Government. Considering the current shadow cabinet, no one would have been surprised by the lack of ideas and hapless demeanour of Labour’s front liners afterall, it’s not as if any of them has ever had a real job. However, the big surprise came when their leader, Ed Miliband delivered the speech (or most of it) that should have set out exactly what we could expect from a future Labour government. Unfortunately, Ed’s speech lacked any kind of coherence and whilst, the party faithful showed their support by remaining seated until the end and then dutifully applauded Mr Miliband there was no disguising their general disappointment
On the day following Ed’s speech, I was sitting in the entrance lounge area of Salford Royal Hospital when I noticed that something was going on. A man with a vacuum cleaner was busy collecting dust from the carpet, a few clinicians of varying ranks were gathered together in anticipation of [?] and people who were neither patients or nurses were running around and talking into their smart phones. The penny finally dropped when both Jon Snow and Nick Robinson (news reporters for Channel 4 and BBC respectively) walked into the lounge to be followed a few minutes later by Ed Miliband. Now, apart from the various groups standing around, the media people, the clinicians and the camera crew there were a lot of ordinary people like myself in the vicinity and I expected Ed to at least, nod and acknowledge [the people], his potential voters but he never once turned his head. Perhaps, Ed didn’t want a repetition of that time when Gordon Brown tried to interact with the “commoners” and ended up having his ears chewed off! However, considering that there is growing concern over the future of the NHS this was a missed opportunity for the Labour leader to score a few advantage points from the people who rely on the health service.
Perhaps, the biggest failing in our political system is that people tend to vote for individuals rather than their respective parties although, this may change in the wake of UKIP. However, there is no denying that, on a personal level, David Cameron is the current poster boy of UK politics and he is likely to remain popular for some time yet, possibly five more years at least? The Conservative government have a number of individuals that you either love or hate and their September conference successfully maintained the reputations of each and every one of them. The ones we hated before the conference only made us hate them even more than we thought possible with their attacks on the most vulnerable whilst those we quite liked before they spoke, left us feeling strangely ambiguous about them. However, unlike Ed Miliband, David Cameron delivered a speech that was sufficiently convincing (although not convincing enough going by the number of UKIP defectors), passionate, witty and concise. Cameron made a few good jokes too although, they were probably written by a team of BBC Radio 4 comedy scriptwriters. All the same, you sense that Cameron would be fun to be around whereas Miliband appears dull and distant. I can imagine Ed and Justine sitting around with a few selected friends discussing politics rather like Sidney and Beatrice Webb in their day whilst Dave and Samantha would be down the pub downing a few jars.
The final conference of the season was the Liberal-Democrat affair which for some strange reason, was held in Scotland. Perhaps, the Lib-Dems were hoping that following the sense of betrayal over the way in which Labour supported the Conservatives in their recent referendum, the Scottish Labour voters might switch to their party. However, Judy Murray has more chance of winning Strictly than the Lib-Dems have of gaining more MPs, Scottish or otherwise in the 2015 election. Their conference however, was more Liberal than Democratic and their leader, Nick Clegg spent far too much time apologising for not doing things for which he never had the power to do anyway rather than outlining how, if elected outright, the Lib-Dems would govern the country. They should certainly introduce a more progressive Income Tax model which would see high earners paying a more appropriate amount of income tax as well as a raft of new green taxes. I’ve been interested in politics for a long time and the perceived reputation of The Liberals and now The Liberal-Democrats, has always been that they are extremely good at the grassroots level. In other words, your local Lib Dem councillor or MP is likely to be beavering away on your behalf whilst the others have their thoughts on bigger things. I have found this to be true on many occasions but the general public have short memories and unfortunately, Nick Clegg’s decision to form a coalition with The Conservatives in 2010, will only result in them becoming even more marginalised after the next election.
If the party conferences failed to create much excitement in the media, there was one clear message that resonated with voters of all persuasions as well as those yet to vote. The message being that UKIP had to be taken seriously. Yes, a party led by, a man of the people, a beer loving, common sense talking, tweed wearing guy was threatening the position of each of the three main parties. And doing this without any Policies unless you consider being “anti EU” an actual policy rather than a point of view. Personally, whenever I see Nigel Farage he reminds me of Homer Simpson and I find it difficult to take him seriously, the former not the latter. However, if UKIP were not being taken so seriously by the media then we might all see the joke but if you think that I’m being disingenuous then please explain the motivation behind the release of the song, Ukip Calypso, sung by one of the most boring, egotistical men ever employed by the BBC. I heard Nigel Farage on BBC Radio 4 refuting that the song was in any way racist despite the fact that it is sung by a white middle-class Englishman in a mock Jamaican accent. According to Nigel, it’s just a bit of fun! However, his party has obviously struck a chord with some sections of the public, perhaps because they share the same attitudes that appear daily in The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express and there have already been some defections from the Tories to UKIP. Hopefully, when UKIP fails to win seats which is likely to be sooner rather than later, the media will stop behaving like a bunch of UKIP besotted teenagers and return to normality.