Next week the Conservatives at their Conference get to reflect on their party’s unexpected election victory, this week in Brighton the Labour Party is reflecting on our unexpected leader.
Party Conferences have a unique place in party history. Instead of the hoped for unity, they are often remembered for their discord, usually a political version of looking back in anger. Although new Leaders give renewed interest the only part of Conference which attracts attention is often the Leader’s speech.
There’s also a myth about party conference, that members and affiliates come together as the supreme decision making body. In fact every Labour leader has ignored conference decisions when it suited them, including fondly remembered leaders like Clement Attlee.
The speed of doing politics has moved on rapidly. Political participation for many people is about signing up to online campaigns and petitions. For others political communication goes little further than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter. Only very few could imagine stretching that to 5 days in a Conference Hall.
So there may be something in the view that the week long annual Conference is no longer as relevant, in seaside towns which like conferences themselves have seen better days. Perhaps it’s time for more frequent, shorter conferences, in the regions, closer to the people and away from London. It would certainly mean Parliament would no longer need a Conference Recess and we could get on with our job of scrutinising the Government.