We've just come to the end of the party political conference season here in Britain. This takes place every year around the end of September and the beginning of October, just before the start of the new parliamentary session.
Each of the main political parties holds a conference at which the leading politicians, both national and local, as well as the «party faithful» make and listen to speeches about the issues of the day. Press and TV coverage vary of course. The Welsh and Scottish Nationalist parties tend not to attract much notice nationally but we get «wall to wall» reporting on the three main parties: the Libdems (an abbreviation for the Liberal Democrats), Labour and Conservative. The Libdems this year had a fairly quiet time.
Venues for the conferences are always famous seaside resorts such as Eastbourne and Brighton along the south coast or Blackpool and Scarborough on the northwest and northeast coasts, respectively. Hoteliers and landladies «rub their hands with glee» at the prospect of additional customers after the main holiday period is finished. «VIP's» go to the «posh» hotels and the «ordinary rank and file» members have «to make do with» simple bed and breakfast places.
Sometimes though, it pays «to keep a low profile» on occasions like these if you don't want to get too involved. A terrible example of this was when the IRA blew up part of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984 when the Conservatives were in power under Mrs Thatcher and some of the delegates were killed or badly injured. Security of course is now part of our daily lives.
During the second week it was the turn of the Labour Party to hold their conference and naturally the «spotlight» was on Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, who has been having a difficult time recently but reception for his speech was «rapturous» and not surprisingly he received a «standing ovation». In the days of Mrs Thatcher the length of the ovation was measured in minutes and seconds and «pundits» would actually tell the press how well she had done in terms of length of ovation in comparison with other speakers and other years. There's no doubting the fact that for the party in power it's an opportunity to «show off» their achievements, to present a «showcase» to the people and for the parties in opposition an opportunity for «morale boosting» so that people go away fired up with enthusiasm. That's the theory anyway.
Unfortunately «skeletons in the cupboard» have «a happy knack» of making an appearance at this time of the year too, which makes it very difficult for the organisers to get the press to concentrate on what they believe are the important issues. That's why you couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor old Conservatives last year. At the moment they're not doing too well in the «opinion polls» either since the latest ones put the Libdem leader and the Conservative leader «neck and neck».
And last year Ian Duncan Smith (the current leader of the Conservatives) experienced problems as certain revelations came out that «tarnished» the Party's reputation. First Mrs Edwina Currie, a former Conservative minister published her memoirs and revealed that she had had a 4 year affair with John Major before he became Prime Minister but when he held an important job in Mrs Thatcher's Government. The irony is that as Prime Minister he was famous for coining the expression: «Back to Basics», a «plea» to return to old-fashioned moral standards!
Then Lord Jeffery Archer (a former Conservative party deputy chairman who was serving a prison sentence for «perjury») published a diary of his first few weeks in prison and finally «to put the tin lid on it», the third volume of the diaries of the late Alan Clarke was published. Alan Clark (a former Conservative minister) incidentally was famous for his frequent love affairs and «speaking his mind» about his political cotemporaries. Speeches that made references to morals in public life were banned of course.
As you can imagine, the journalists «were holding their breath» in anticipation of what would happen this year at the Conservative Party conference. Now, I have to explain that Mr Ian Duncan Smith, known for short as IDS has described himself as the 'quiet man in politics', an unfortunate label as it's turned out, because every time he stands up to speak in the House of Commons, the Labour party members all make shushing sounds. Predictions were made that this would be the best speech of his political life. But then how would a «quiet» man deliver a powerful speech?
In the event he surprised everyone and enthusiasts counted 17 standing ovations! I'll just quote one line from his speech, which will have you reaching for your dictionary where he describes the present government as 'double-dealing, deceitful, incompetent, shallow, inefficient, ineffective, corrupt, mendacious, fraudulent, shameful, lying'… I think he'll have to find another way of describing himself in future, don't you?
PS: I've explained some of the words used in the newsletter but lack of space prevents me from explaining the quiet man's description of the present government…
the party faithful: those members of a party who are very loyal and always prepared to support their party.
Wall-to-wall: continuous and not stopping or leaving out any detail.
rub their hands with glee: look forward to something with great enthusiasm.
VIP's: literally Very Important People, in this context the senior members of the party.
posh: very expensive and exclusive.
rank and file: ordinary, not important
to make do with: accept without complaining.
to keep a low profile: not to draw attention to yourself.
spotlight: main attention
rapturous: extremely enthusiastic.
standing ovation: when people stand up and clap.
show off: enjoy demonstrating to everyone.
showcase: an exhibition of what you have done
morale boosting: increasing the confidence.
skeletons in the cupboard: secrets that you don't want anyone to know.
have a happy knack: usually happen when you don't want it.
opinion polls: percentage figures measuring the success of a party or leader.
neck and neck: both at the same level or point.
tarnished: stained or spoilt.
Back to Basics: a return to the old standards of morality.
plea: a strong request.
perjury: telling a lie in a court of law.
put the tin lid on it: to make matters ten times worse.
speaking his mind: telling the truth, usually to the embarrassment of the person spoken about.
holding their breath: waiting in anticipation/great expectation.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this essay, please post your answers on the forum here: Party Conferences?