A party caught in the glare of its headlights
It hits you like a tidal wave. No sooner are you through the doors of the Manchester Exchange than you are amid a morass of suited, white-shirted, tied-up business folk.
Or that’s what it appears.
But closer inspection finds that most are here at the Tory party conference as lobbyists. Only a minority of the 12,000 anticipated visitors are actually attending the debates on the floor. The rest are milling around outside, anticipating change.
Yet the event itself, so far, has been cautious. Kenneth Baker, long ago home secretary; Ken Clarke, long ago chancellor of the exchequer (still on the front bench); a relatively muted George Osborne; and even David Cameron not in his maximist form.
In truth, this appears to be a party caught in the glare of its own headlights.
In amongst the strange micros-shopping centre, hard by Harvey Nicks and M&S, squats a Christmas shop. Christmas has come early to the Manchester Exchange, and there seems to be a slight fear abroad in this place that the opinion poll lead is a little early for comfort too.
But we shall see. It may be even the best is yet to come. But on today’s produce, judged against last week, it will be hard to say which party was talking more realistically about the future.
Just a couple of facts you might enjoy. The clouds around the wall of the conference centre really move. And the screen behind the stage is claimed by the Tories to be the biggest ever deployed by the party conference – beat that!