I have just received my programme for the Conservative Party Conference in October 2012. It is in Birmingham this year which means I can enjoy the use of a narrow boat on the canal just five minutes walk from the International Convention Centre where the conference is held. I look forward to hosting a drinks party alongside the boat for friends and colleagues during Conference.
Glancing through the programme, I notice several points:
- Firstly, the reshuffle has played havoc. The Co-Chairmen of the Party – note “Chairmen” – are shown as Sayeeda Warsi and Andrew Feldman. Sayeeda has, of course, been replaced by young Grant Shapps. He has navigated his way through some difficult housing policies and seems to be a survivor. I suspect he will be a lot more visible than Sayeeda.
- The reshuffle havoc goes further. While the main Conference programme refers to Secretaries of State and Ministers without naming them, the Fringe Programme names a lot of individuals who have lost or changed their roles in government. Looking into Fringe Sessions will be an interesting game of “guess who will be there”!
- It is probably my imagination but I sense the formal Conference Programme shrinks a bit more every year! On Monday and Tuesday there are just two sessions in the morning and two more in the afternoon, the second one closed to the media. Now, for me, the Conference is an opportunity to network and to socialise; to have a good luncheon and a dinner party with friends. So, I am not in the least worried about what looks like a short day but some Party members may come expecting more. I remember the Liberals telling me how seriously they took their conference, speaking of debating late into the night over cups of coffee while stroking their beards and shuffling their feet in their sandals!
- Finally and most irritating, I find that every individual presiding over a Fringe event is described as a “Chair”. Now, I thought we were the Party that does not do political correctness and am baffled to see this innovation. I am saddened by it. A chairman is a chairman whether a man or a woman or someone who claims to be a bit of each! Equally, our Party spokesmen are now “spokespersons”. This addiction to political correctness leads us to tautological nonsense that can cause derision – and quite right too. I do hope we are not going down that path. I have spent most of my political career telling council and LGA officials not to describe me as a piece of furniture. I find it offensive and I know others do. I suspect it is partly a result of a left-wing culture in our schools that is training children in political correctness and the children are growing up into the spotty-faced yoofs who proliferate our Party.