Friday, 2 October 2009

Manchester gets the blues

After playing host to the Labour Party twice in the past 3 years, it seems a bit strange to get another shade of ‘mainstream’ politicians flooding the city. We can expect the usual transport chaos due to closed roads, and lost souls with suits and identity badges wandering the streets (and that’s just the journalists). It will be interesting to compare the feeling engendered by a Tory conference as opposed to a Labour one.

Following last year’s 'Convention of the Left’ it’s unlikely that a corresponding ‘Convention of the Right’ will emerge (or if it does I can guarantee that Manchester Green Party will be giving it a very wide berth indeed). There will however be a Stop the War march (Assembling at the war memorial at 1 pm); whether or not it will have the same oomph as a march against Blair and Brown remains to be seen.

From a difference to a similarity – the Climate Clinic will be in full swing at The Cube just as it was during the Labour conference (see their site for a programme of events). And just as with Labour we can expect that the main attendance at those meetings will be the environmentally-aware of Manchester; with Tory delegates in short supply other than the token shadow ministers. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong but I doubt it. As the polls are predicting a Conservative victory at the next General Election, let’s hope that some education goes on (of them not us).

Climate Change is of course only one of many subjects for fringe meetings around the conference. One meeting which has attracted a degree of advance publicity is one entitled “Have the Parties Got What it Takes to Clean Up Politics?” with former independent MP Martin Bell. Answers on a postcard….

One question which is bound to resound in the local media is ‘Will the Tories win seat(s) in Manchester again?’; given the Tories recent record in the City (I’m talking Manchester here, excluding Trafford, Salford etc), I’m amazed how much coverage this gets. It is 15 years since the Tories won a council seat at an election in the city, and as for winning a Parliamentary seat here, I reckon there is more chance of finding Elvis Presley alive on the moon.

In the most recent election in this City – this June’s European elections – the Conservatives were only the fourth Party, behind Labour, the Lib Dems and, of course, the Green Party (results here. And when the politically-neutral Manchester Climate Forum invited a Tory speaker to a recent public meeting, they couldn’t even manage to provide one.

But let’s try to put all that to one side and extend a welcome to our visitors, and make the most of that rarest of sights – Tories in Manchester!

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