A Tale of Two Conferences

There’s no free wifi here in Birmingham. Clearly the Tories expect to pay privately for that kind of public service, whereas last week at the Labour Conference in Manchester, the connectivity was subsidised.

There’s no free wifi here in Birmingham.  Clearly the Tories expect to pay privately for that kind of public service, whereas last week at the Labour Conference in Manchester, the connectivity was subsidized.

Also missing is the air of triumphalism that I expected would greet us on arrival.  Instead there is a real sense of caution.  Steady as she goes, show some humility, master the brief… and wait for Labour to implode.

I experienced a couple of Down the Rabbit Hole moments at the Labour Conference last week.  The first was on Monday morning at the Public Sector 2.0 fringe event, which was broadcast into Second Life.  My avatar watched the screen, which depicted a room in which I was sitting, looking at my laptop.

Public Sector 2.0
Public Sector 2.0

The second moment was when I spotted the Prime Minister and his wife coming out of the lift, on their way to deliver their eagerly awaited speeches (I half expected them, as I had almost bumped into them coming out of a lift earlier that afternoon).  They disappeared out the front entrance… and immediately appeared on the screens that had been set up in the foyer.  In this era of mass communication, the barriers between the screen and real life are sometimes very blurred.

The Prime Minister in the foyer, and the screen, and someone's head
The Prime Minister in the foyer, and the screen, and someone's head

The speech itself did what it what supposed to do, which was bouy the Party Faithful and fight off a leadership challenge. But one week later, and the positive feelings fade. Danny Finkelstein is right: Labour thinks the voters are wrong, or misguided, or don’t realise what the Party has done for the Country. His advice:

It started with a simple proposition – it wasn’t enough for the party to understand that voters had lost faith in us. We had to do something far harder. We had to accept deep within us that this loss of faith was justified.

When I read something like Justin McKeating’s shopping list of Labour’s failures, panderings and hypocrisy, its difficult to disagree with the proposition that Labour are out of touch.  Perhaps the current economic crisis will draw them back to reality – in this case, the populist, protectionist approach doesn’t quite seem so vile, although some libertarian bloggers may disagree.

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