Published on 4 Oct 2011

A conference of two Conservative parties?

It is one of the most confusing party conferences I have attended. If coalition politics served to professionalise the Lib Dem conference (see earlier Snowblog), they have served to discombobulate this Conservative one.

Ministers and members seem to be singing from intriguingly different hymn sheets. At the core of the difficulty lies, as for so very long, Europe.

The party is unquestionably relieved to be in power. Many here in Manchester at the party conference even talk about it as a “Conservative government”. The word coalition doesn’t often even rate a mention.

But in the margins here you talk with party members who say things that quite simply would never be said from the podium by any minister. There some who want to see corporal punishment back, or who deny climate change, and many for whom getting out of Europe is a central ambition.

A poll published noisily here yesterday found 68 per cent of the party wanting to leave the EU altogether and a whopping 75 per cent who want a referendum on the subject.

Needless to say, the issue is not on the main conference agenda. It is as if there are two conferences going on here. One for those who actually believe the Tories lost the last election and one – generally involving those enjoying ministerial power – who believe they won it.

I chatted informally last night with a number of senior ministers who described having the “time of our lives”.

Today sees law and order on the agenda, and there will be some Tory red meat thrown to the ordinary membership. But when all this is done, Tories of all stripes will return home, allowing the coalition to get on with the job of government.

From what I have learned of this conference season, that coalition government will make it through to the next election in 2015.

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22 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    2015 is a long way off. The opinion polls & “focus groups” etc during 2014/15 (& I mean the private party stuff) will start to influence policy & public statements. If the coalition has caused such a gap between the Tory rank & file & the leadership, there may be worries about UKIP creaming off Tory votes. The LibDems may start to wave their liberal convictions around. (Personally I doubt there’s much Ed M can do as I can’t see him winning an election, even if the economy nosedives). As usual, it will largely be about the state of the economy & who is perceived to be the cause.

  2. e says:

    Oh dear! Has participating in party politics outside the confines of parliament become an entirely ridicules pastime? Gosh, there’s an argument for Labour supporters sticking with the unions…

  3. adrian clarke says:

    I do not think there is any confusion Jon,just a cynical attempt to stay in power.
    The only reason this coalition will last the full term is that the Tory coalition are no longer Tory and the Liberal coalition have far too much power for such a minor party.
    It is as if the country has been piratted by a few disgruntled fellows, like “mutiny on the bounty”,and cast adrift,but without a Bligh.They have what they want,power, but not in the interest of the greater population.
    Those voices on the side Jon are the true voices of the people.
    We want our say over Europe,Human Rights, discipline,global warming , the so called green taxes.Cameron believes he has assuaged public anger with his petitions, but as we see our wishes ignored by him and this coalition he will be in for a great fall

    1. Moonbeach says:

      You have not mentioned one of the most influential minorities of recent times; the one we dare not discuss for fear of abuse; the Gay Lobby radicals.

      I should say that I am not anti-homosexual but merely against the disproportionate impact that a few radicals have had on our society.

      My gay friends do not agree with this radical element but merely wish, like the rest of us, to get on with their lives without prejudice.

      The recent survey showed that less than 2% of the population is gay. Those with radical views must, therefore, be even less.

      Yet they have managed to silence the huge majority in UK who profess to be Christian or Muslim.

      They stopped a loving, Black, Christian family from fostering any more children; and this was supported by Cameron! They have successfully closed down Roman Catholic adoption groups at a time when more and more children need loving homes.

      They have challenged the orthodoxy of marriage when civil partnership seems fine.

      I could have chosen other minorities that are in the news right now such as travellers who ignore planning law, immigrant criminals who cannot be deported, economic migrants and so on.

      I expect the wrath of the minority soon!

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Moonbeach there are many minorities who have too much say.There are as few Liberals as gays.
      The climate change/green lobby.Even the public service unions.
      It is time the majority started to make its voice heard,but we are unfortunately a virtually silent majority who complain and sit back and do nothing

  4. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Of course they will survive until 2015, salaries are on the back of this for both Libs and Cons.

    As for those on the wings , those flatworlders; what do you expect? You have been around long enough to know that violence for them is a way of life and solving problems. It the only way they understand. if they cannot do it physically they will revel in aggressive chat and threats. But now I am talking about the lefties in Manchester who say I was thrashed backwards and forwards all my young life and it hasn’t done me any harm ! Ha! think again leftovers.
    It may be those suffering council house dwellers who charge £900 for 2 days work whilst the rest of us despite a profession degrees and a lifes experience live on £10.00 ph and then get abuse or complaints whilst they rob us and extract the mick. Come on it aint politics ;just rough bullies.

  5. Philip Edwards says:


    “Two Conservative parties”?

    Try THREE. The other one held its “conference” last week in Liverpool.

    Britain is a one party capitalist state with three factions, nothing more, nothing less.

    Which is why matters are going to get substantially worse…unemployment, poverty and social division all increased to previously unthinkable levels.

    That’s what happens when a society sells itself to an evil creed. Ask Germany.

  6. Tanya spooner says:

    I find this description of grass roots attitudes at the Tory conference extremely depressing. Will these idiots never learn? Climate change denying, wanting to leave Europe, wanting to reinstate the death penalty; they belong in the nineteen-fifties and thank God for the LibDem side of the coalition…..

    1. adrian clarke says:

      there speaks a true Liberal, and theywonder why they lost votes and MP’s

  7. Gary says:

    Not if Europe has a say about it. The next big crisis in Europe will split the coalition like an banana skin, then they will all be slipping all over the place trying to salvage the sinking ship called the british government.

  8. allan grainger says:

    why are you not reporting on the wall street protests?

  9. Pamela Morton says:

    What a cheap shot and question from Jon Snow! Asking the PM if he ever had suffered ‘financial deprivation’? His son is married to one of the richest men in the UK’s daughter! and has HE (JS) ever suffered financial deprivation? Sorry, it is time the media behaved in a more professional and courteous manner towards everyone who consents to an interview – without these interviews where would the media be

    Pamela Morton

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      I am sure it was a rhetorical question asking him to empathise and certainly a question which was not out of order. In fact DC would probably welcome an invitation to try and understand poverty and project it on the media.

      What I cannot understand is how you can sit by those windows which are down to the floor,so high up in an interview without sweating and feeling dizzy. It must have been the scary Hilton panorama..phew well done to both of you!

      BTW Mr Crick is a good addition to the team.

  10. nina says:

    Channel 4 News …Very disappointing tonight

    Last week I watched Jon go for the jugular while interviewing Ed Miliband . Tonight ,he was careful to don kid gloves before speaking to David Cameron .

    Also ,will we be treated to an interview with Steve Bell tomorrow night . He appeared on the programme during the Labour conference to tell us about making a cartoon figure of Miliband …those staring eyes .

    I want him back on Channel 4 and allowed to explain while he always draws Cameron witha condom on his head

  11. Meg Howarth says:

    You could have gone further, Jon, and point to the (still-modulated) splits within the Tory part of the government – Liam Fox not a Cameron favourite, way-out right John Redwood etc.

    But on the NHS the Tory half of government seems as one, despite differences on the back-benches.

    For Adrian and Sam, and any other Yorkshire-based Snowblogger readers, this piece may interest:

    This can only speed up the necessary C21 change that all GPs become salaried, ending the cosy little self-employed
    number which is no longer necessary.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Meg,i do not see a problem with people having to pay for such non-essential and non health risk surgery.Cosmetic surgery should be paid for by the recipient , just as fertility treatment aught to be.
      The NHS is a Health service, and should not cater for free for treatment other than that which preserves health.
      By the way ,i am in God’s County ,Derbyshire :) not Yorkshire

    2. Meg Howarth says:

      North Yorkshire and York NHS (PCT) has now corrected what it claims was a misunderstanding, and the GPs’ practice above will no longer be able to charge for the operations listed in the link. BBC 6pm news reported this, though C4 didn’t.

      Seems to me questions remain about the setting up HBG Ltd and the PCT’s knowledge of/apparent co-operation with same. Hope C4 will pursue.

  12. Meg Howarth says:

    The issue here surely, Adrian, is the obvious conflict of interest between tax-funded GPs refusing such treatments and setting up their own private firm – HBG Ltd – to carry them out and benefit financially from them?

    NB a ‘Ltd’ company: ‘One of the greatest benefits enjoyed by a limited company is tax flexibility. A limited company can elect to have its own processes for income purposes’.

    As you know, I agree with you that routine fertility treatment and ‘aesthetic’ cosmetic surgery shouldn’t be available on the NHS (am unclear how widespread the latter is). But we need to remember that some infertility is the result of medical treatment for other life-threatening conditions.

    Sorry for mixing up counties. Derbyshire is indeed a beautiful county, though not the only one! Used to be taken there as a child from home in Lancashire.

  13. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    D C Better brush up on my punctuation, spelling and grammmar. My pet hate is commencing a sentence with a conjunction. This though is a bit of cheek coming from my careless safe who mixes metaphors , tenses and inserts my own so-called poetic language into text. Ah well, if teachers are going to rule I hope they have thrown out the cane.

    Being a leftie , I am behind DC’s rhetoric all the same.

  14. Denis stephens says:

    What is the point of me having a say. It will be ignored and channel 4 news will continue in its normal aggressive way. If the media was to stop talking about the economy and concentrated on talking up Britain then we would all feel better. It is time to stop knocking.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      I agree Denis. This is a way many are at the moment. Aggression and deliberate miscostruing of words seems to be all the rage.Many want a slanging match and think that this is the way to feel important. Even though, Jon asks questions perhaps others would not and sticks to his point I don’t think verbal aggression is one of his tactics. Some of these bloggers though show strong traits of bullying and contrariness.

  15. IAS says:

    In my view, the Labour Party is basing its arguments of ‘opportunism’ rather than a true and reflective opportunity to be ‘different.’

    It is my view that both the integrity and dignity of our politicians couldn’t be lower.

    With both the Coalition leader and Labour leader not recognising or associating themselves with the fundamental basis of a Democracy, Fairness and Justice for ALL, our bankers remain with deep pockets, their homes, cars and benefits and this while the rest of us, not responsible for Fraud and banking abuse, have to suffer the detriment of austerities put in place.

    the fact is, our Democracy does not exist!!

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