As many will know, the season where the various UK political parties hold their annual conferences has just ended. I confess that my not having regular access to television and newspapers has meant that a lot of what has taken place I have missed and I have had to rely on various postings on social media to get an idea of what has been going on. Yesterday’s comments regarding David Cameron’s final speech at the Conservative conference were a case in hand. These ranged from “great speech” to “it showed how despicable Mr. Cameron and his Tory supporters really are” – both coming from politically minded community activists that I regard as friends. It did get me thinking though as to how relevant these conferences are and what might be gleaned from the main speeches. I then decided to go to YouTube to check out Mr. Cameron’s speech for myself and, for the sake of balance, I did the same regarding the speech that Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, made a week earlier.
In terms of presentation, Mr. Cameron’s speech scores highly, so highly in fact that, if I wasn’t a grumpy old cynic that thinks he knows better, I might have been tempted to sign up to join the Conservative Party there and then. Besides dealing the normal line that the Conservatives stand up for hard working families, have the policies needed to sort out the economy, will keep us safe and help us realise our dreams and aspirations, they will stand up against European excess and deal competently with some of the many international challenges we now face, and in so doing will recognise, safeguard and apply the best in British values, it is also the party that can be trusted to support the vulnerable, and he gave several examples of how he would do this. All impressive but partly negated by making cheap jibes directed at his main rival, who earlier made comment (sadly taken out of context) that Osama Bin Laden’s death was a tragedy. Those who read my blogs will know that I am not a big fan of Mr. Cameron on several counts and in terms of helping the poor and addressing social justice issues, I have come to the view that too often he just doesn’t get it and, contrary to his claim, his government has failed to do enough to support the vulnerable. Some of my concerns around combating extremism, dealing with immigration and safeguarding the NHS, to name but three, will need more than rousing speeches and easy to make promises to convince me. Some of the points raised in Mr. Corbyn’s speech a week earlier, which covered a numbers of these points, could have been better dealt with but weren’t, but then sensible dialogue is not a feature we have come to expect in modern politics.
As for Mr. Corbyn’s speech, it lacked the slick setting that Mr. Cameron found himself in, and his fan base came over as less intense in its adulation. As far as presentation went, it scored lower than that for Mr. Cameron’s speech but, as I come to reflect, he raised many important points, even if I did feel that he got a bit unnecessarily side-tracked at times. While taking exception to some of the attacks of his opponents, linked to his republican sentiments, I do have qualms that he is not as forthcoming in standing against the nasty guys of this world and with the good guys, as he might. While I recognize it is more shades of grey than his Conservative opponents would lead us to believe, I do not believe he has got that particular balance right, even though there are other areas where he has. I have reflected in an earlier blog regarding what a few months ago would have surprised most, including me – a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the Labour party leadership election. Yet it has been a lot more pleasant than I might have expected, because he raised issues I care about, in a way I doubt his rivals would have. Time will tell what impact he will have on the political scene; I hope he will.
Political party conferences fascinate a number, particularly the media. But we all know fine words and slick presentations are not enough. What does matter is the impact these gatherings of the clans have in terms of making a difference concerning the many important issues that affect the country and indeed the world. Like it or not, party conferences do give some indication of what our political leaders are thinking and, while survival in politics sometimes requires a Machiavellian type mindset, experience does teach us that what our politicians say in conferences does to some extent later get enacted. While not especially hopeful, I do hope some of the fine aspirations, such as support for the vulnerable, that Mr. Cameron shared in his speech, do get realized and that Mr. Corbyn and his allies will take him to task when they aren’t.