The Social Market Foundation's Director reports on the memorable debates, distractions and drinking sessionsby Emran Mian / October 4, 2013 / Leave a comment
Vote to scrap the bedroom tax? I’m not a Liberal Democrat. It’s wrong, it breaks up families. Scrap it now. I’m sorry, I can’t vote in there.
Sign here to save the NHS? I’m not a Labour Party member. Stop the courts from stealing kids? Umm, same answer.
Stop the cuts? Why are you filming me? We’re filming all the Tory scum. I’m not a Conservative Party member. Yeah, right. I see your badge.
Take action on UN-run concentration camps? I’m not a Liberal Democrat. Wait, what? Don’t work. Get a life. Thanks, that’s a good idea. Facetious prick.
I’m going to Fujitsu. Have you been to Fujitsu? Where’s Fujitsu? Turn left before you get to Lomond. You know, after Boden. It’s the end of the corridor. Have they got wifi? Total Politics has wifi. Yeah, I heard that. Where is it? The exhibition area. But you need to have booked it. If you see Microsoft, you’ve gone too far. Maybe I should catch the Energy Reception. We could do that and then The Health Hotel. Do we have time? There’s the business reception later in the Glasgow Science Museum, Whispering Dishes room. IOD, BCC, LTOM. Is that across the river? Outside the secure zone.
These have been the geographies of my last three weeks. The spaces I imagined – the party conferences – for ten years as a civil servant have become real in a blitz of Exchange 2, Cobden 3, Central 7, Radisson Pankhurst, Grand Dee, Glyndebourne 1, the Freedom Room, SECURE, NON-SECURE, Breakfast Provided, Refreshments Available. I wasn’t allowed to go to the conferences before, civil service impartiality provided the cordon sanitaire, though typically I’d be connected to a Minister or Special Adviser at some point during the season to fact check something, by text message or email, to ensure that the Government’s position was never knowingly mis-described.
At the other end of those rushed communications, I imagined a moment later that the Minister would step into a crowded fringe meeting and during a free exchange of political views insert a stat or two – my marginal contribution – but only marginal, because the real subject matter was ‘Progressivism’ or ‘Economic Liberalism’, different ideas of freedom,…