I’ve spent much of the last two weeks observing the various party conferences, to get a sense of what they might do to weigh down or power the real economy forward if they are elected into government.
Once you cut through the political dog fighting and defections, amongst a raft of vote-grabbing promises like Farage’s taxing of oligarchs, Miliband ratcheting up the minimum wage, and Cameron bidding up the number of social houses, I picked up one big difference between the parties and one dominant shared theme.
The stark differences were the levels of energy in the rooms.
Speaking at fringe events in Manchester I got a strong sense that Labour has taken the defection of their core vote in Scotland to the SNP to serious heart, and perhaps fear nationalism in England. It did not feel like a party on the move to government. It didn’t help that the leader’s pitch for office was so unforgettable that he forgot it himself.
If Labour were subdued, UKIP seemed positively energised.
I wasn’t there in person but the news oozed a sense of a party that believes it has the temperature of a growing segment of the electorate in England and that smells political blood. It is the only one that seems 100% supportive of its own leader. It’s a difficult ask to convince others when even you don’t support your own leader.
The Tories started in Birmingham with a ministerial sex scandal and a defection to UKIP, but despite this and the collateral damage taken by Cameron, in the Juncker, Scottish referendum, and “Purring” Queen gaffes, there was much more of a sense of a party that at least believes it has a shot at government.
The economy is humming along now and the coalition will surely get some credit at the ballot box?
What unites all the three is their rhetoric around the need for greater devolution of power and influence over political and economic matters to the local level. Everybody it seems understands that the current system of Local Government is unaffordable and unsustainable, and bearing in mind that the streets of Hong Kong are strewn with protesters as I type because politicians tried to pre-judge the outcome of elections, there is a growing realisation that we in England will also demand a say in how we are to be governed.
The Lib Dems’ conference starts today (Saturday).