Fall is closing in and after a summer recess government has reconvened. Kicking everything off, the Party Conference has been a stable of British politics for close to a century; it is one that has featured a bit of drama, humour and some legendary speeches. The Party Conference however, has never really captured the imagination of the public at large. The problem with this being that, along with the global financial crisis, faith of those in power is dead in spirit.
In Autumn’s approach, many during the Liberal Democrat’s Conference sought drama by predicting Clegg’s fall and a new phase in the politics of the Lib Dems. Instead, the media was forced to discuss the future as the present was, quite frankly, uninteresting. Clegg sought renewal with his apology and sans a chortle worthy youtube remix; the apology itself prompted vague contempt. Clegg, and politics at large, is almost a passing irritant to the lay-man.
Interestingly though during the BBC’s Daily Politics, where they themselves maintained an air of disinterest, it was suggested that the Conference format should be changed. I think that at this stage, even within parties, there is a strong argument for change and minimal ambivalence to such a change.
Before proposals for change can be discussed, the precise role of the Party Conference must be gleaned, and what its role should become should be ascertained. As British as it is to carry on traditions, the Conference is in an arrhythmic funk. Since their inception, Party Conferences have been an opportunity for parties to re-focus or introduce their ethos of the moment in an attempt to invigorate the party members themselves. This function, it is safe to say, will probably never disappear, it is important for politicians to maintain a decent level of contact with their party constituents (as Clegg has done this week).
In these more media centred times the Conferences have also been a means for parties to reach out and show the populace the state of their support and to clearly point to the direction in which they were to or would steer the country. As I mentioned earlier, the interest for this aspect has tapered off significantly in recent years despite the ample media coverage.
The problem with a slackening of interest is that it hinders democracy and doesn’t aid any of the main parties’ current precarious positions in parliament (Vince Cable strongly alluded to the probability of a hung parliament in 2015).
Thus, I present this suggestion as to what might be a viable alternative to the current set up. In the games industry, up until the late noughties, The Electronic Entertainment Expo was the global Mecca of the games industry. It lasted five days, three of which were spent behind closed doors with industry insiders, the other two dedicated to the public. The two days spent communicating to the public provided the industry much useful feedback and gave the public a real sense of involvement.
I believe that this model is one which can and should be emulated to some degree by the political parties. The majority of people feel disconnected from their local politicians, an increased level of communication between people and the politicians can only help stem the creeping rise of political disinterest.
*It is worth noting that since the Labour Party Conference kicked off at the start of this week I hear Ed ‘Clarityn’s my middle name’ Miliband delivered a rousing speech. I have yet to see it to believe it.