I went to the Labour and Conservative party conferences this year because of our Creditworthiness Assessment Bill, which is now passing through the House of Commons. But also to speak at the Fair by Design fringe meetings, held at both events. Fair by Design is a campaign with a simple road map to put an end to the extra costs that go with being poor. It’s a burning injustice that if you’re poor it costs you more money for your credit, gas, insurance and day-to-day living. It fits in well with the work we’re doing about reducing the cost of credit for the most stretched in our communities.
Both conferences were surrounded by pickets against Brexit. Labels and stickers, leaflets and posters and EU flags fluttering with the Union Jack. Humour seemed to be the main tool to get people to change their mind about leaving the European project.
The Tories always seem to dress the most seriously, with men in dark suits and dark ties. As if a load of dentists or accountants had decided to congregate. The Labour lot seemed more fun, more laid back, and perhaps less uptight about the current political situation that the country seems to be in. Why? Because they don’t have to actually skin the cat and deliver the goods as they’re not in office.
I had heard on Question Time a few weeks ago that party conferences were increasingly irrelevant, or were supposed to be. The public don’t tune in as they used to. But that seemed to be far from true. Maybe because there is some suggestion that the current government will be led by another, who made a play in this latest Tory party conference. And of course, at the Labour conference there were flashes of the knives that have been out for their current leader.
You don’t prepare yourself any better by arriving at the scene of the event – Brexit – frightened and shaking
But what is so extraordinary is the panic that spreads as news about these events flow from the media. Breaking news seems a tireless array of speculation and guessing, and occasionally something happens. But it’s the breathless, at times desperate, presentation of news that seems determined to frighten the shit out of the country, and destroy the people’s peace.
But just because Brexit and leadership contests are frightening considerations, in that we don’t know what’s coming down the line, can you really approach the unknowing, shaking like a neurotically informed-by-media voter? Can you face the biggest challenge to the UK’s future (whether it’s positive or not will be decided by time) when the media has made you feel unsure, ill with worry and frightened to the core?