When they’re over, a comparison between this year’s major party conferences seems unlikely to flatter Labour and their leader’s “new politics”.
The party may have narrowly skirted a total meltdown over the UK’s nuclear arsenal – at least until the final day – but Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was a meandering mess and he remains locked in combat with his party’s reality-based wing.
Indeed, the key difference between this week’s Tory gathering and Labour’s was best summed up, of all places, by the Guardian:
“This year, the distinctions are particularly telling. The first is that the Tory party will not hesitate to scrutinise and debate the lessons of the May 2015 general election.
“The second is that the conference already has the election of 2020 in its sights. Neither of these things was remotely true of Labour’s energised gathering in Brighton.”
That all sounds pretty positive, from the Tory perspective. Labour’s approach certainly doesn’t seem to have resonated with the electorate: Corbyn has just registered the first negative approval rating since reactions to new opposition leaders started being polled in the 1950s.
In an effort to find a silver lining, the article touches on the usual, oft-flagged trouble spots for the party, especially Europe. But the odds of this disrupting the conference seem remote.
This takes the Guardian‘s pursuit of a silver lining to the party wine cooler…
“But a Tory conference, especially one in which the champagne is back in the wine cooler as it apparently is this time, is neither a biddable nor a well-behaved place.
“Mr Corbyn’s ascetic and decent image, with his wish to do politics in a kinder and more reasoned manner, could not be a starker contrast, and one in which most people would side with Mr Corbyn.”
This is an odd paragraph, not least because in my experience Conservative Party Conference has never come close to resembling the Gatsby-esque explosion of excess that paragraph promises.
Nor because it contrasts drinking champagne with being “kinder and more reasoned”, as if the two were somehow antithetical.
No, stranger still is the underlying assumption that the British people identify with ascetism: that photographs of people meeting up with friends and colleagues and getting drunk will somehow come across as alien and off-putting to the public.
Speaking as a long-time teetotaller myself, that doesn’t tally with my experience at all. Quite the reverse, in fact.
In every important respect, the Tory conference is almost certain to contrast favourably with its Labour counterpart: the leadership aren’t fighting each other, the activists are buoyed by success, and the party is firmly forward-looking.
And if a few attendees offend ascetic sensibilities with drunken and raucous behaviour, my prediction is this: few will mind, fewer will care, and none who do will be swing voters.