So last week I pitched up in Birmingham for my first Conservative party conference.
Before we get into the nitty gritty though, I have to deal a shout-out to two parties without whom the experience just wouldn’t have been the same.
Big-up first of all to a colleague of mine who shall, so as to spare him any embarrassment on top of that which he garners daily by virtue of his stupid face and ridiculous pronouncements, remain nameless. Let’s just call him Simpleton Denselow. Wait, that’s probably too specific. Toby Simpleton (@tobysnizzle). Toby Simpleton, normally in charge of stationery management, was given a shot at booking the conference accommodation. At the Lib Dem conference, he showed himself to have nothing short of a spectacular talent for finding the grottiest hostelries on the face of the planet. In Birmingham, suffice it to say that he distinguished himself once again. Hats off to you, Tobes.
Upon arrival, I was informed that my room was not yet ready (clearly they were still spit-shining the shower fixtures and scraping the bed sheets) so I diligently scuttled off to catch the end of an early fringe meeting.
Or so I thought. Shout out number two, you see, goes to the benevolent, all-seeing, all-knowing Google Maps which assured me by way of a merry pin on its grey landscape, that my meeting was but a hop, a skip and a jump away. After completing the hop and the skip, I was preparing to jump when I found myself surrounded by the derelict remnants of what looked like it was once an industrial estate. My spidey senses were tingling. “Strange place for the government to hold a party conference,” I sagely thought to myself. “Particularly one seeking to rally under the banner ‘Britain can deliver.’ How deliciously ironic! HAHAHAHAHA!”
Undaunted (and utterly unburdened by common sense), I pressed on through dogshit-strewn pathways along stagnant canals of green-skinned water until, presently, I passed a disreputable looking tattoo parlour outside which was sitting an unshaven, string-vested local hitting a log with a hammer. There were no nails involved: he was just hitting a log with a hammer. My suspicions, so subtly aroused by the incongruity of my surroundings, were given another firm dig in the ribs by this rather unedifying spectacle. I’ll be honest with you: my confidence in Google Maps was at an ebb.
Any hopes I had of seeing George Osborne prance from behind yonder pile of decaying tyres to extol the resourcefulness of the British small to medium sized enterprise community so nobly embodied by this log-hating hammer-jockey were fast fading. Instead, I suddenly became acutely conscious of Liam Neeson’s cautionary mantra is Batman Begins: “mind your surroundings”. In my current surroundings – a Lowry illustration of a Smiths dirge on Thatcher’s legacy to the industrial North – I stuck out like…..well, like a man hitting a log with a hammer.
I was wearing a pinstriped jacket, a waistcoat and a Tory conference pass – an ensemble which I shortly expected to accessorise with all the trappings of a blood-spattered, semen-stained canal-sunken death in down-town Birmingham. We who are about to die salute you, Google Maps.
Breathe easy dear reader (mum). I made it back to my hotel unscathed and stumbled off to the real conference site to learn about how Britain was prospering in austerity.
So I went to a few fringe events and stuff. But enough of that. We all know that the papers have told us that the conference didn’t really get into full swing until, at some point on the Monday morning, Boris Johnson’s train disgorged its flaxen-haired cargo at Birmingham New Street station and what Steve Bell whimsically dubbed the “media goat-fuck” could commence in earnest.
The content of BoJo’s speech to the salivating party faithful the following day was of no consequence whatsoever. He could have dropped his trousers and farted into the microphone for half an hour and still have them coughing up their pacemakers with laughter. In the event, Boris bounded onto the stage like a Dulux dog in heat and began to very loudly exhibit his considerable gift for compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought. Chief and only topic: the Olympics. Something about how London was infected by “a benign contagion” the chief symptom of which was that all of its citizens were “suffused with a Readybrek glow”. Hard-hitting stuff. From my seat in the gods I glanced across the hall and saw that The Observer’s chief political commentator, Andrew Rawnsley was slumping further and further down his seat. By the time Boris was bellowing about “eudaemonia, eupepsia and euphoria” he was almost horizontal. Perhaps some kindly sniper had put the poor bastard out of his misery.
It mattered not. The crowd lapped it up. Indeed, had the weather not been so bitterly unkind to ageing joints, I fully suspect the Mayor of London would have been buried beneath an avalanche of enormous knickers from the blue-hairs in the front 5 rows.
Dave’s address the following day was an altogether more sober affair. He couldn’t afford to replicate Miliband’s extempore tales of magic and heroism on the dog-eat-dog streets of Primrose Hill; these are serious times and he had to be a serious Dave. For the most part, he delivered but that’s not what people showed up to see.
Dave may have had a job to do pretending he had the first idea how to run a country but Boris knew what the rest of them were there for. Party conferences, I have come to understand, are like the seediest of strip clubs. Party activists shamble in forlorn, disheartened and flaccid; looking to stuff sweaty handfuls of one dollar bills into their leaders’ ideological G-strings. After 4 days of titillation by the promise of electoral success, they are extruded onto the streets once more, wild-eyed and reinvigorated by a singular determination to hump the electorate into submission.
And if there is one man who can coax an orgiastic mob to the verge of campaigning climax, it is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
I did raise an eyebrow when Dave expressed his desire to “beat off the suffocating bureaucracy” which put me fairly in mind of some sort of red-tape asphyxi-wank at the Bullingdon Club but that somewhat questionable turn of phrase aside, Boris was the star lap-dancing attraction. He was Cameron Diaz in The Mask and Salma Hayek in From Dusk Til Dawn all rolled into one. And Boris did good. He wanked that conference into a priapic frenzy and sent them out of the Birmingham Conference Centre ready to fuck anything that moved.
How long their “confidence” lasts, only time will tell. My guess is that by the time the first freshly fluffed Tory phallus is slammed in a constituency front door, the conference buzz will be a distant memory.
Also posted on The Huffington Post.