Crunch time in Manchester….
A Party Conference, Francis Urquhart informs us in House of Cards, can be many things. In the case of the Liberal Democrats this week it has obviously been a wince-inducing death-rattle of sheer irrelevance, it also has had a smidge of being about the pretenders to Nick Clegg’s tarnished throne auditioning for the poisoned-chalice position of Party leader. The Conservative Party sally to Birmingham is likely to be equally as angst-ridden, fraught with the barely contained internal tensions which are increasingly springing into full public view. Any momentum gained will most likely quickly halted by the declaration of the Corby by-election result.
Therefore, for Labour in Manchester, this is a key conference because far-from rolling round the rim of the political abyss this is its chance to show itself as a government-in-waiting. Obviously, our polling position is healthy, but nobody seriously expects this rude health to last, let alone translate directly into the actual result of the next election. So, this is a Conference of consolidation and showing we are ready to march forward. Specifically, we need to make progress filling in the blank sheet of paper which constitutes our policy commitments. This should be a sober conference and one that works hard to set down the tracks for the policy train to travel on.
More than that needs to be done though, we need to show we have a fresh vision for Britain and by-implication contrast that with the tired feel of the governing Parties. We need to show we have a narrative that encapsulates our core values, expressed in detail in our policies, which gives the Party and the country the lift that both need. We need to show that we have a collection of clearly defined ideas which can come together to form an enchanting symphony to captivate our electoral audience. At this time, all these things are lacking, and their absence is what makes the strength of our polling position somewhat illusory in nature. We need to distance ourselves from talk of fraternisation with the ailing Lib Dems and show why Britain should elect us to govern in our own right. This is the challenge that we all have before us and what awaits those lucky enough to be actually in Manchester for the event itself. It’s a big one to be sure, but then again as a Party we are often at our best when the size of the challenge is greatest. With the political weather inclement as it is, this could well be the last chance we get to show ourselves in this light, so lets make the most of it, and as a Party lets extend our best wishes to delegates in Manchester for their success.