THE BLOG

The Parties' Parties

02/10/2014 10:24 BST | Updated 01/12/2014 10:59 GMT

It is conference season, when in the past, faded seaside resorts would become the lands of broken promises. These days, conferences are held as far away from the sea as possible, as that is where the Kippers reside and neither of the two main parties wish to be associated with them. Or meet them. Or hear their name. Nick Clegg certainly doesn't, especially as his Liberal Democrats may be supplanted as the "other" party, Britain's spare, the one people vote for when they can no longer bring themselves to scratch a cross next to Labour or Conservative.

Conference season comes hard on the breathtakingly long holiday that our diligent representatives enjoy in the summer. It is so long, it straddles both Spring and Autumn and would probably subsume Winter, if they did not also get a stonking great break over Christmas.

Politicians and their attendant hangers on, PR drones, media gadflies and circling lobbyists love conference season. It is a break away from Westminster when all the usual rules of deportment and personal accountability are thrown out of the window. What happens in the North, stays in the North.

Like a school trip, a great amount of thought and planning goes into who gets to sleep where and next to whom. Connecting rooms in the finest available establishments are secured so that the politician with forethought can avail himself of the talents of his youthful, pert researchers after they are suitably lubricated at the bar downstairs. He will be examining their portfolios, with both hands, as often as his schedule allows.

It is dressed as being all in the name of advancing the interests of the party, to make them more electable, to bring the message to the public that they alone are not like all the others.

Unfortunately, the public is not watching. The public would rather perform its own eye surgery than watch the broadcasts of the party political conferences that are beamed out on the rolling news channels. There are more people filming them than there are watching them at home.

For this reason, the leaders of the day, and their upstart pretenders, try for what is known as a sound-bite. A sound-bite is a distillation of the message. The message is whatever they think we are gullible enough to believe and stupid enough to have forgotten that they promised last time and did not deliver.

The entire spectacle of conference season is one of hope over experience. We hope that this time they mean it. Our experience tells us they don't.

Ed Miliband started the proceedings with the Labour conference but whether it was because he was on first and we had not acclimated ourselves after the languid summer, or because we were not very interested, it passed without much incident or notice.

He said some compelling things about something, I am sure, but they were drowned out by an infantile maelstrom of criticism about what he forgot to say (and the nasally, goofy, inept way that he said it).

The Tory conference was declared a disaster before it had even begun because a person you had previously not heard of had switched to Ukip. And an even more obscure Tory MP was caught in a rather underhand, seedy sting by a Tory hating "newspaper". You may have wondered how the press could make the public hate them even more after the hacking scandal...wonder no longer.

An MP with his wand out may have interested the public but exposing his exposure was not in the public interest. Big difference.

These days the Tory conference is about three things, all of them men. George Osborne does his trust-me-I-know-what-I'm-doing routine, Dave acts tough, wraps himself in the flag and promises a brave new tomorrow, but the real draw, and the only one to get the conference's knickers in a twist, to get them packed in and standing on tip toes at the back, is Boris.

Next to those Kippers who think that their bunch of privately educated, grey, banker apologist millionaires will be any different from the privately educated, grey, banker apologist millionaires of the parties they used to vote for, Bozo is the single most entertaining thing about the whole flaccid charade.

Still, there's the Liberal Democrat conference to come. Be still my beating heart. Will the excitement never start?