This week, the Tories are holding their annual get-together at Birmingham’s ICC. It is a suitably grand venue for The Blue Team. The press and broadcasters are all present and correct. The set-piece speeches have been rehearsed, the backdrop readied. But what even the most fervent Tory backers cannot disguise is that there is something missing inside that cavernous main arena - and what is missing is people.
The party forming what passes for Britain’s Government right now cannot muster a hall full of delegates to listen to their supposed star turns. No-one so far has addressed a full house, not even Spreadsheet Phil, who is supposed to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not even Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary). Not even Dominic Raab, who claims to be the Brexit Secretary. And most certainly not Esther McVey.
The Union? Gerry Hassan was watching. “The Conservatives as the party of the Union. Conference session with David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, Welsh & Northern Irish ministers. Near empty hall”. Culture and Sport? “In an empty hall, the Secretary of State for Sport & Culture just gave his speech to #CPC18”. No-one was bothered.
No surprise that Labour supporters were concluding “Empty seats, empty words, empty promises, empty of ideas, empty of supporters. That's todays @Conservatives - stale, drab, finished!” and “This Conservative conference is turning out to be a complete disaster. Most of the speakers seem to have had a charisma bypass, and are speaking to an empty hall. Even Sky News is asking ‘Where have all the Tories gone?’”
Labour Councillor Richard Dunbar mused “#CPC18 An empty hall with lots of empty promises ‘Tackling Injustices’they say whilst they have created the hostile environment for migrants & put more people into poverty. ‘More homes’yet homelessness has risen 167% &more people in insecure accommodation”, while James Ellis concluded “Empty hall, empty rhetoric and empty of ideas. The Tories are a busted flush. Brexit and austerity a legacy which leaves Britain crushed, consumed by fear and anger. #CPC18 is embarrassing. Only #Labour gives us hope”. What if voters think the same way?
One Tweeter compared the Tory conference with Labour last week in Liverpool: “The difference between a morally bankrupt, empty vessel and a movement inspired to make lasting change, primed for government”. Sean Flynn, in the meantime, had a novel explanation for the lack of people: “It must be fancy dress at #CPC18, with half of attendees choosing to go as empty chairs!” Sometimes rather more than half.
The media not always telling us the full story was also touched upon. “This is the picture as Jeremy Hunt completes his speech. A half empty hall. Utterly embarrassing. Where would the Tories be without their powerful friends in the print media, constantly spinning for them and pumping out propaganda daily? Nowhere”. And another Tweeter quoted one exasperated delegate: “I have been coming to Tory conferences since the mid-1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp, and I have never seen the main hall so empty”.
This is not a party of Government. It is a party of washed-up has-beens and inadequate wannabes, many fighting with one another in the manner of bald men contesting a comb.
The Tories are subsiding into irrelevance. Small wonder there are calls for an election.
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