An outsider's guide to the Tory Party conference
What Liam Kirkaldy learned from the Scottish Conservative Party Conference
Last year the flats across from the Tory Party conference had signs reading, “Tory scum, back to your castles”, as well as, “Eat the rich… Yummy.”
They were gone this year. Maybe the inhabitants have moved out. Or maybe they had been won over by the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan – though it seems more likely they have been arrested for cannibalism.
But regardless, the Tories were back, forcing a sizeable crowd of older tweeded gentlemen and women dressed like Cruella Deville to negotiate walking sticks through the airport-style security.
The age demographic dropped on the doors though, with the arena guarded by the ‘Young Conservatives’.
Their presence was obvious upon arrival, with two dead-eyed young members checking passes and searching guests for evidence of socialism.
They were terrifying, roving around in slick-haired, well-heeled gangs, on the look-out for something to privatise. Smiling like a gang of hammerhead sharks crammed into business suits.
“As the party’s only Scottish MP, Mundell must feel like a prince among men. Or a prince among barons, anyway”
A wise observer would do well to stay out their way. But fortunately, with the speeches starting, there was no time to be frightened. Not yet.
David Mundell opened things up. As he spoke the room fell silent, or as silent as it gets in a room full of people consistently unable to operate their phones.
He warned: “Just when you thought it was safe to return to the polling booth, enter stage left Alex Salmond, the self-styled puppet master.”
The crowd liked that and they liked him. As the Party’s only Scottish MP, Mundell must feel like a prince among men. Or a prince among barons, anyway.
But even if the others have titles, none have achieved a much harder task for Conservatives in Scotland – getting elected.
Yet there he was, swanning around the conference centre like a star footballer returning to the South American favela he grew up in, showing off the fact that he made it out.
In his speech Mundell framed the election as a matter of choice: “So the choice is stark and clear at what will be the most important General Election in a generation. It is a choice between competence and chaos, David Cameron or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and whether Britain keeps going forward or we turn back.”
And the British people did choose Cameron as PM. Well, they chose a coalition. Or some did. But we chose Cameron more than anyone else. Look, we didn’t not choose Cameron. And that’s what choice is all about.
Though it must remain a matter of some bafflement to the party that so many people continue to choose to be poor.
From about midday onwards, signs pointed to the PM’s imminent arrival. Security swelled, while men with earpieces started checking in corners and behind doors. And by 2pm, stewards were strongly encouraging people to choose to sit at the front where the cameras would choose to point.
Again, it was back to choice.
On the one hand, Cameron said, we have the option of continuing to live the dream we have enjoyed since 2010.
“On the other side: Ed Miliband in Downing Street. And if you thought the ultimate nightmare scenario was a Labour Government? Try this: Labour and the SNP in Government – a unique, unprecedented coalition of the people who would break up our country and the people who would bankrupt our country.”
The SNP and Labour, clearly, are the wrong choices. Even if we choose them.
Cameron, in truth, was pretty uninspiring and actually, Ruth Davidson was much more passionate. Taking to the stage to close proceedings, she too pushed the idea that the Tories are the party of choice. Unless you choose to spend on public services.
But it wasn’t all about what she called “dismantling the welfare trap”. Davidson also promised a new “flexible childcare credit”.
You can see the logic of softening Tories’ image, which has suffered ever since it cut free milk for kids. In fact in the past the party has been about as trustworthy on childcare as some sort of monstrous, slobbering pterodactyl.
But Davidson spoke well, drawing on the concepts of freedom and personal responsibility, before pointing out many people in Scotland may be Tories without knowing it.
She said, “I say the choice at the General Election couldn’t be more clear-cut. Just vote for the government you want. Vote for the party that will deliver the policies you want. Vote for the Prime Minister you want.”
She added: “If you want a party that believes in choice, freedom and responsibility – who says you make the best decisions for your family, then vote Scottish Conservative.”
Vote Conservative – you have no choice.
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