Now the party conference season is over, we have a chance to look back and reflect on what was a very interesting three weeks for the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties. As it happened, all three political parties, and all party leaders appear to have had somewhat impressive conferences in their own individual ways. As a result, it looks unlikely that the polls will shift too much from where they were before conference season started.
In policy terms it was clear that the Liberal Democrats were trying to disengage from the coalition and give a distinct party line of their own. Clearly Nick Clegg is concerned by the party’s dismal opinion poll ratings, some giving the Liberal Democrats as little as 8%, and others putting them behind UKIP for the first time.
Labour, on the other hand, have been riding high in the polls. Their big drawback is that the British public largely do not see Ed Miliband as an attractive proposition for prime minister. His 70 minute script-less address, arguably the best of the conference season, did, however, boost his position and probably bought him sufficient time as Labour leader to work to drive home the Labour party’s advantage over the Conservatives.
The Tories had the most to lose from this conference season. If David Cameron didn’t produce the goods, and the Conservatives left Birmingham in the same position that they had arrived then it looked almost inevitable that the party would be at risk of losing the 2015 general election.
The key point of interest from all three events was the lack of any decisive policy announcements. Labour came up with only a smattering of ideas, and they were qualified as being things that they would implement if they were in government now rather than solid policies to be introduced after the next election.
All three parties seem to be in remarkable agreement over the need to build new houses to stimulate the economy, through simplifying the planning system and by driving forward localism. Clearly then, any battle to be fought in the future will be over the economy and whether we should continue cutting public spending at the same rate or whether we should have a Plan B as advocated by Labour.
Perhaps the person who benefited most from this conference was Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative chief whip embroiled in the ‘pleb-gate’ scandal. He was told by David Cameron to stay in London and missed his home town conference (quite embarrassing given that he is the only Conservative elected in Birmingham). Luckily for him, all the Miliband/Boris/Clegg speeches took him off the front pages!