Politics.co.uk Blog

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cracks appearing in Bournemouth

Conference season is well and truly underway and the sandal-wearing, muesli-eating hippies (Sarah Teather's words, not ours) have descended on Bournemouth - largely a Tory town to be fair - once again.

So far so good it would appear, but already there are minor cracks appearing.

For instance, Charles Clarke was notable by his absence from the Centre Forum/Fabian Society fringe meeting this lunchtime which meant it was a slightly poorer - and less well attended - event.

But then last year he had just put the boot into his mate Gordon Brown and most of the journalists at the conference were hoping that he would do it again at the fringe meeting.

Unfortunately, he didn't and got rather annoyed with everyone asking him questions about the prime minister. This year he obviously decided to give the event a miss. So, once again there was a certain amount of disappointment.

It didn't stop Sarah Teather twisting the knife for a few colleagues of her own last night however.

Mark Oaten might well be standing down at the next general election but he is nonetheless still a member of the parliamentary Liberal Democrat party. There were more than a few sharp intakes of breath at her jokes at his expense. Meanwhile, Evan Harris' (God complex apparently) and Lembit Opik's (Life on Mars, yeah we know he's weird but that was a little harsh wasn't it?) were also unflatteringly name-checked. It's hard to work out whether some of the jokes were appreciated but we'd expect that she has a bit of explaining to do to the victims of her "wit", as her glorious leader Nick Clegg called it when he took to the stage betraying at least a hint of annoyance with her. Given this was supposed to be her big moment (she's been touted at one of the party's main election spokespeople for the general election) the question became whether or not she blew it. The answer? Probably!

Meanwhile, there were also a number of disapproving comments about the choice of the background colour for the stage in the main debating hall. "Too turquoise" was the remark which sprang forth from many a party activist's lips. It certainly looked a bit too similar to Tory blue for far too many people - and given the protestations about the differences between liberal Democracy and Conservatism (apparently, Dave, Nick says the clue is in the name, whatever you might believe). And let's not forget the question that former party leader Charles Kennedy asked of his audience "What is the largest land mammal on the planet?" ERIC PICKLES came the shout from the audience, to howls of laugher. Clearly this crowd think the differences between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are more than just paper thin.

Back to today and I found myself giving aid to an elderly woman who was struggling up the near-mountainous incline to the Marriott hotel from the Bournemouth International Centre thanks to a party delegate who clearly was looking to dump her on somebody. I duly did the right thing which afforded me the opportunity discover that there really are a few nuts out there among the political parties. Possibly the best bit however was when said lady stopped Vince Cable as if he was a long lost friend. Poor Vince didn't have a clue who the lady was but was polite as always before making a sharp exit. If nothing else I suppose it goes to prove just how some people really do think they own MPs - it's an odd thing to have seen in practice.

Having taken my charge to the hotel and achieving my one good deed for the day (well… month is probably more like it) I then observed - well let's call him a senior BBC journalist getting rather flustered trying to find his hotel room in the Marriott. Asked by a party activist if he was looking for a particular fringe event, said journalist frowned almost contemptuously before complaining: "No I'm looking for my room!" Having then found someone that seemed to know what they were doing he almost - I say almost, it was bubbling up you could literally see it, but it never actually reached the surface - had a 'Do you know who I am?' moment.

Oh dear.

If this is what it's going to be like and it's only lunchtime God knows what we can expect by this evening. Check back tomorrow to see just how messy it gets!

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