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This is the fifth of eight reflections on the Tory conference written by Tim Montgomerie, Editor of ConservativeHome. The previous ‘Birmingham takeway’ identified ‘three vote moving policies‘.

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Nadine Dorries MP got it right earlier this week:

"Birmingham is full of twenty something earnest young men in black suits with iphones growing out of their ears. Gone are the faithful association members with their happy smiles, warm wishes and plastic bags… With hotels at £120 per night and restaurant prices at the gastro pub end of the price range, the days of party members getting together and seeing the same faces year after year have gone. Conference has gone corporate. This is the way of the new political age and the price of success. I acknowledge and accept that the shared generational experience of gentle seaside daytime bonhomie giving way to night time revelry has gone forever. But I acknowledge it with a tinge of regret, sadness and many fond memories."

Yes it’s good that we were in Birmingham – as part of our commitment to urban Britain – and good that so many younger people want to be part of the conservative renaissance. It’s good that businesses are flocking back, too. But the accommodation prices have deterred a lot of rank-and-file people from being able to attend. This Conference was younger, more corporate, more elitist, more controlled, more expensive.

That’s not to say that Conference didn’t offer some welcome innovations. One particularly welcome change was the Think Tank Zone organised by George Eustice.  George, who is responsible for external relations at CCHQ, arranged for a number of think tanks and campaigners to be able to promote their work from within the heart of the exhibition area.

What else can be done to make the Conference more satisfying to grassroots members?  ‘Victoria Street’ left these thoughts in a comment yesterday:

  1. As mentioned by Dizzy, why no option of day passes?
  2. The hall was simply too small.
  3. Information on debate speakers was minimal. I almost missed Dame Kelly, was surprised by some other speakers and our overseas guests deserved a little advertising to ensure a good turnout.
  4. More opportunities for non-platform speakers. Where is our next William Hague going to make his mark when there are no slots for independent, non-PPC speakers? We are all house trained, you know!
  5. Oh and free wi-fi would have been useful.

What would you do to improve next year’s Manchester Conference?  I’ll bundle up ideas and forward them to Caroline Spelman.

61 comments for: A Party Conference that was a little too corporate

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