Conference season is in full swing once again. This is very much a minority pursuit these days, with only a tiny few following the twists and turns of policy machinations.However, I detect a growing interest in politics, thanks largely to the Brexit debate, especially among retired folk, if my postbag is anything to go by. That is to be welcomed.
Whether the nation is riveted to the screen or not, parties do need time and space to deliberate over policy, articulate a sense of direction, and for the rank and file to mix with leadership.
It seems to me that Labour have had a pretty good conference, with a growing sense of direction and purpose among those who can accept Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. There is no doubting the energy that he has created on the left of British society and the next election whenever it comes will reflect that. The way he has slowly taken control of the party is something future political students will admire. Purists would say that their policy on Brexit remains ambiguous – all things to all people, but that could also be described as clever politics.
The Conservative party begins its own gathering this weekend. It promises to be a lively affair. Funnily enough the EU have done us a huge favour in being so brutal in their rejection of the Chequers Agreement. (Although it still raises its head, I suspect it will shortly be declared as dead as Monty Python’s famous parrot that some of us watched first time around.) This has given us temporary respite and unity while we wrestle with Plan B. It provides an opportunity for a new bold approach and we will see shortly whether it will be taken.
Most of us are now desperate to get beyond Brexit and start putting in place the foundations for post Brexit Britain. The ideas and energy are out there, waiting to be harnessed, but are currently drowned out by the relentless sound of daggers thrust between shoulder blades. If our conference can start to focus on life post-March 2019, we will have a rewarding few days.
There was a time in the 2000’s when there was only a tiny divide between the two main parties. Those days are gone. The British people will have a very stark choice at the next election, whenever it comes and this can only be a good thing - to keep our democracy fresh.