By Amy Hopkinson (Third Year Politics Student and Conservative Party member)
The mood at this year’s Conservative conference was quite positive. I was struck both by the real and venomous anger towards UKIP, and the complete lack of interest in Labour. There was also no mention whatsoever about the Liberal Democrats, with the honourable exception of Ian Duncan Smith who singled out Steve Webb for lavish and well deserved praise.
Instead, it was about rolling one’s sleeves up which I rather liked. There was a lot of effort being made to present the government as still being fresh and full of ideas, but it was obvious the default assumption was continued coalition, even though there were the ritual calls for a majority government. I was struck by how collegiate the conference was – no longer “David Cameron’s Conservatives” a la 2007 but a serious team of heavyweight politicians who make Labour look like children. This isn’t to say David Cameron was not visible. He was very much in evidence. If the intention was to set the heather alight then the conference will have failed; if it was to show the Conservatives as a reforming, serious Party of Government then it succeeded.
I spoke to one person who had just come from the UKIP Conference. She told me how terrifying it is that everybody insists on dressing in yellow and purple. More usefully, she felt that Farage was increasingly divorced from his own party.
Nigel Farage’s party is rapidly going down the Front Nationale route with left-wing economics and repudiations of liberalism. Clearly the tobacco companies were expecting a warm reception and came away shocked by the statist tendencies of the membership. This makes Carswell’s defection even more incomprehensible, doesn’t it? Despite this, I think this is probably better for the Conservatives in the long run; it detoxifies us, but also poses more of a challenge to Labour in the North of England than that tendency takes over.
So, the good…
George Osborne was excellent, even though he’s increasingly looking like a sort of Roman vampire sustained by the dark energies of the treasury. He was endearingly nervous but gave a great speech. William Hague was cheery and fun. Spoken without the use of a prompt, he could have recited the phonebook and the audience would have loved him. I even managed to get a selfie with him and shook his hand.
Ian Duncan Smith was on evangelical form, going on about “crusades for social justice” and how much he loves his country. His speech was believable and admirable. I really do admire how IDS gives people a moral reason and pride to be a conservative.
The indifferent …
Theresa May gave a good speech that was characterised by her attempts to channel Thatcherian delivery (clearly she had been using a copy of ‘The Iron Lady’ to practice) but lacked any personal warmth. At least George Osborne doesn’t take himself too seriously; with May, I would have liked to have seen more personality.
Theresa May was followed by Boris Johnson. There were some good jokes and the use of an ingenious prop but the shtick is getting a bit threadbare. I think Boris needs to be a bit more serious if he wants to get the top job.
In all honesty there wasn’t much rubbish, bar the lack of sleep. If I learnt anything coming away from conference it is that the Cabinet is better than ever and really impressive. The only sad part is that despite meeting David Cameron, I was too nervous to ask for a selfie. Here’s one with Nick Robinson to make up for it.