Thursday, 15 October 2009

The end of conference season

There are two kinds of speech at a party conference; there are good speeches and there are speeches made by good speakers. The difference is that while the former, though still well delivered, is written in order to promote policies, aims and ideas, the latter is written for the promotion only of the person who wrote it. As year by year we drift further into the realm of personality politics, the line between the two categories becomes increasingly blurred, to the point where it is now hard to judge the value of a party conference at all. Though in the past it has served as an opportunity for the press to put the spotlight on party policy and to give the grassroot membership the opportunity to take on an active role in influencing those policies as the party political system require, increasingly, conference season has become an opportunity for the party PR teams to exhibit their products out on the podium while the role of the membership is reduced in the press to providing lengths of applause as measurements of the popularity of key speakers. Party conferences may still provide members with a means of shaping policy, however as the role of the party diminishes in favour of individual personalities, so too has the value of conferences been undermined


  1. I disagree, the roll of a Conference is not always who does the best speech or gets the most applaud it has a much wider remit then that. It is about unity and looking towards the next fight...

    There are plenty of positives achieved on the fringe for the Party and there is nothing like it for the opportunities it creates to network and promote causes.

    The Conference floor is about Policy of the Party but it should not be about who has the biggest moan. Years back that is all the press and media cared about, the end result was the public stopped watching and listening.

    Thinks of what all those arguments from the 80s and how it would look like with 24/7 media coverage? It could easily come back and its something we can’t allow.

    Party democracy will only ever work when there is a true balance, but that is not the case for many CLPs are not a good example of inclusion for all. Far too often there is no connection with the person who is called Chair, Vice Chair and Treasurer to the very members they are supposed to represent. Not nastily but just because sticking to a 1950’s style meeting is extremely dull. Many places also have the far left of the Party in control and nobody with a different view gets a look in.

    If we really want democracy in the Party then we should do a way with the concept of officers at CLP level, and turn the areas into campaigns and debates with a central organiser.

    Engaging people with issue that affect them in their street, the issues can be small or big, but in doing so you are talking about things that they see everyday. Bigger issues on a national scale can also feature as delivering messages is about making things real.

    Talking with the people and not at them, if we can get past the 1950’s wall then we can really start having the influence and engagement that Labour is capable of.

    Politics should also be fun; it’s about helping others and improving environments for where people live. A common goal should be a theme not just something talked about for two minuets and then shoved in the minuets of the last meeting. We were brave enough in the 90s to change the National Party, but we have not done so with the CLPs, its time to brave again and start a debate on what is their purpose as we head toward 2010…60 years after that format of meeting was devised.

    If we invited people to do a conference call, say 20 members…..but at the same time invited the same amount of people to attend branch or CLP…its clear before even trying that the conference call would have far more people take part.

    Labour is a strong and vibrant Party nationally but we have to make the move away from the 50s at CLP level, if we do then we will find we would more likely have the people to help do the campaigns.

  2. I should have been clearer, I was complaining about conference coverage. I agree that they have value, however I think that the huge emphasis on personalities reflected in the coverage undermines that value to a degree.

  3. You were clear; I just took a wider view in terms of Party democracy...

    I do not think it is possible given 24/7 media coverage to avoid our Candidates, MPs and others from coming across as if we are all trying out for the latest X Factor...

    Since the media went 24/7 an erosion of what is important in news making went with it. It is not enough to do a speech at Conference for now they have to have star quality.

    We of course end up playing the media game and think they are all powerful and determine elections when largely they have little influence on voting patterns despite what they think. There influence lies in the superficial image they portray about people and what should be expected.

    The more honest we are the more it works against us. You only have to look at the irrational dislike about Brown to see that. For many it has nothing to do with policy or how well he does...nope sadly for Brown people are forever judging him by his looks and how he speaks.

    We are all in the media bubble now and it does harm democracy as it affects what is important news over garbage. Little short of 24/7 news going back to fewer broadcasts, Conference will remain a show case of talent no matter what policy is being put forward.