One conference with two messages

By Michael Burton | 03 October 2018
  • Michael Burton

There are two simultaneous events at the Conservative Party conference. In the main hall are the Soviet Party Congress-style plenaries in which a succession of ministers dutifully read out the latest tractor production figures and the five-year plans to regular applause. In these plenaries all is rosy, hundreds of thousands of houses are being built, the economy is booming, old people are happy and looked after in their shiny new care homes, the NHS is awash with cash and we march to a sunlit tomorrow.

Elsewhere, at the 300 or so fringe sessions lasting from 8am to midnight, a thousand flowers bloom covering every conceivable subject from autonomous vehicles to vaping and Brexit – and it is here the real world makes an appearance. Curiously for a party which has almost no policies, the fringes tell a very different story; there are loads of ideas, not least from the ex-head of the Prime Minister’s policy board George Freeman who set up the Big Tent Ideas Festival. The trouble is the ideas never seem to make it into the Cabinet.

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