Having never been to the Conservative party conference and not being a member of the party myself, I was expecting it to be rather, dare I say, aloof.
There was plenty of drinking, plenty of port for sure, but the policy coming out of the main hall seemed a little bit light. Yet that wasn’t what struck me most. No, reflecting the recurring trend in politics of late I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in Birmingham.
I had the opportunity to debate, present and articulate ideas to ardent High Tories who rallied under the banner of "Church in Danger" as well as uber edgy (both in persona and on the political spectrum of the left) Labour party members of the ‘free markets...BUT’ persuasion.
Though this civil discourse is rather cute, the pinnacle of polite conversation occurred as Owen Jones heartily laughed as a group of young Conservatives for Liberty members announced they would ‘privatise him’ and responded he would ‘nationalise them’ with an even heartier laugh.
The Conservative party’s conservatism is notorious for having a historically inconsistent dogma, from Disraeli to Thatcher; reflected by Boris Johnson speaking of One Nation Toryism and Thatcher in almost the same sentence. So when I attended a fringe event with a presentation slide titled ‘Origin of the term ‘Conservative’’ I was hoping for some clarity. But the lecture (and a quick glance over my A level history course) reminded me that Conservatism is only as good as what it conserves. Paradoxically this may be why the Conservative party has been Britain’s most successful political party – but that is a topic for another blog.
Regardless of the party’s past, the conference was particularly promising for the future of the free market faction. And I mean conference and not party there. It was at the business stalls and fringe events – those attended by entrepreneurs and academics – which is where I found showcases of driverless cars, AI in financial services, and housebuilders showing they’re not just jaw-jaw.
Naturally, this meant they were popular and the temptation to parallel the ‘one-in-one-out’ entrance policy at some events with the proposal of some Tories’ immigration strategy was too tempting to resist. The opportunity for intra-party dialogue, bolstered by the tieless teens, the Truss enthusiasts, and even the tweed-wearing Tories of the youth wing of the party was both fruitful and friendly.
And so, fruitful and friendly it was, evident by the copious amounts of literature from think tanks, various organisations and charities which I had the pleasure of taking home. However, the question of whether it was all port, no policy depends on whether the literature is seriously considered by the government in the near future.