Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 29 September 2016


The party conference season is in full swing again. In this age of internet connectivity how much longer will we have them? They rarely make decisions and there are plenty of other ways of communicating new policy ideas to members. Is it time to ask the question: why do we do this anymore?

Conferences are useful in raising money for the parties from the businesses that hire exhibition space in the conference centre to lobby party members and activists. That is all perfectly legitimate. It is also a good time for party members together to have a good knees up.
Fair enough. Finally, each party leader will get a generous slot on the terrestrial TV news to promote their programme for the ensuing 12 months. That is worthwhile.

On the other hand, most people – we are told that the average person thinks about politics for 4 minutes a week – are completely oblivious to the fact that parties are holding conferences and do not notice or receive any messages being broadcast from them. I have been in more halls than I care to remember where a barn-storming platform performance has electrified the party faithful, and inspired the hope that the whole country will now fall on its knees and vote for us, only to get home to find that (a) most people did not know we had gathered and (b) had no idea that our leader had made a speech and (c) were ignorant as to its contents.

I have for several years considered the conference season to be an expensive anomaly that should now be consigned to history. My main concern is that it disrupts the Parliamentary calendar. We come back from the summer recess – very necessary to re-charge batteries- for two weeks at Westminster and then rise again for the three week conference season. Madness. I would rather we had an extra week for the summer, packed the kids or grandchildren off back to school and then returned to Westminster to sit through uninterrupted until Christmas.

This year has been slightly different because of the drama of the Labour party conference and the re-election with an increased mandate of Jeremy Corbyn. It will be interesting to observe what moderate Labour MPs now do.

There should be no complacency on our side. It is clear that obtaining a Brexit deal that satisfies the majority will be no easy matter. Conferences or not, there are storm clouds ahead.

posted by Gary @ 09:28