Do any of you remember the scene in The Simpsons where Bart is trying to train – hugely unsuccessfully – his dog, Santa’s Little Helper?
We see inside the pooch’s brain via screen bubbles and what man’s best friend is seeing or thinking is something like: “Blah, blah, good dog. Blah, blah, sit…..” Well, I confess, that’s the effect the political party conferences have on me.
The platform speakers’ speeches may well have been buffed and tweaked, re-worked and sleeked-up but the oily polemic has little or no impact on me. And when the leaders receive their so-contrived and well-rehearsed ovations I shake my head and cringe.
These are embarrassing occasions. As bad as Dad dancers at weddings. Earnest delegates nod sagely, some just nod off, others gravely take notes and try to ignore the TV cameras as they pan around the hall while upfront, centre stage, their leader is rattling on about this policy or that while sticking the knife into their opponents’ ideas. A real turn-off.
However, I actually tuned in by accident to Home Secretary, Theresa May’s speech. I was at the gym on the cross-trainer and had forgotten my iPod with the new Wilco and Laura Marling CDs on it, so stuck the headphones into the BBC channel as Coronation Street, speedway racing and some teen-angst drama were on the other screens, plus poor rap stars on MTV.
But I was in for a shock because it was so bad it was actually funny. The content, at times, was absurd, infantile. “The only cause of a crime is a criminal,” said May. No, really? Rain can you make you wet, you might want to know.
Then on human rights she said an illegal immigrant avoided deportation because of a pet cat. It made me mull over what headlines the tabloids would conjure up for that revelation but I’ll keep them to myself. Later it was revealed to be a totally inaccurate tale so that made Ms May’s oh-so-earnest delivery and assertion that she was “not making this up” an even bigger hoot. This was live telly at its most hilarious, if unintentionally.
As she shuffled off to the Primal Scream track “Rocks” she was about to get Bobby Gillespie and his merry band annoyed. They were none too chuffed with her song choice. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/oct/05/primal-scream-theresa-may-rocks?newsfeed=true
So what is the point of these political conferences, all of them, other than a jamboree for drinkies and a catch-up with chums you don’t see from one year to another? Surely, no-one is deluded by these stage-managed pantomimes or convinced that those reading from their tele-prompters have an ounce of sincerity other than to please and appeal to the party faithful attending?
Maybe the political commentators – and I am not one, I admit – would dismiss me as a lightweight in these matters and fair enough. But that doesn’t change my view that such gatherings – good as they might be for the local economy of wherever they are held – are no more than contrived, set-piece events where a lot of hot air is about all that’s delivered.