A Trip to Torquay

It was a sunny day yesterday, and Dave Atherton was going to be speaking at a fringe meeting of The Freedom Association at the UKIP conference in Torquay. It was only a half an hour’s drive away. So I climbed in the car and drove there, and paid 20 quid on the door for a delegate badge.

This was a new experience for me. I’ve never been to a party conference before.

I had my first rather vivid experience shortly after I arrived and started looking for The Freedom Association. I was standing, rather lost, beside the doors to the main conference hall, when the doors opened and a flood of humanity began to flow out, much of it fairly elderly, and some of it a little unconventional. It looked like the provisional wing of the Tory party. Which I suppose is what it actually was, in many ways, since UKIP has attracted quite a few europhobic Tories. Many of these people, I supposed, had cheered Margaret Thatcher to the rafters 25 years ago.

Yet the speakers at the The Freedom Association were predominantly young. Or at least a lot younger than me. Phil Booth of NO2ID was a young man with a pony tail. Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch was another young man. Dave Atherton of Freedom2Choose was perhaps the oldest of the three. All spoke confidently and forcefully about the encroaching state before an audience of perhaps 50 people. And yet at the end of the session, it was announced that next day there would be a meeting at which “young people” would be speaking. I could only suppose that they would be teenagers.

I spent a while chatting with Dave Atherton and Phil Booth over lunch afterwards, and then wandered off to see what else was going on, and found my way into main conference hall with its podium and speaker and seated audience and cameras and screens, and stood at the back. I was about to leave after the current speaker had finished speaking, when it was announced that the next speaker would be Viscount Monkton of Brenchley. I decided to stay.

Monkton spoke entirely without notes, strolling confidently about on the platform. I’d supposed he would say something about global warming, but it never got mentioned. Instead he worked the crowd like a professional entertainer, getting them to cheer and boo and answer questions. He joked about Nigel Farage ( “Very good on the air. Not so good in the air.” ) And he ended by reciting Shakespeare ( “this sceptred isle” ), before exiting to a standing ovation. He was clearly a star.

After that I attended the Tea Party fringe meeting, discovering that “tea” actually stands for “Taxed Enough Already”. Here the speakers were flanked on either side by a couple of veteran MEPs – Godfrey Bloom and Derek Clark. Bloom predicted that the Euro would have collapsed in 6 months. Clark described how MEPs like him were routinely outvoted 10 to 1 in the European Parliament, and the only solution was to simply get out. When somebody asked what would happen if Britain did just walk out of the EU, somebody else said that we’d be invaded, because they owned all our arms factories.

After that, I had a drink with Mark Wadsworth at a nearby hotel, and talked about politics and blogging. He drinks lager 3.25 times faster than I do, so by the time he’d finished his second pint, and had headed back to attend the conference evening dinner, I hadn’t finished my first pint.

When I returned, shortly afterwards, I passed Nigel Farage in the lobby of the conference centre, and had to suppress the urge to call out, “Hi, Nige!”

All in all, I was surprised by the intimacy of the the occasion. It had been like visiting the household of a large, friendly, and slightly unruly family. I must have met or listened to a dozen or more active or retired MPs and MEPs, and listened to about 10 speeches. It’s probably only at these sorts of party conferences that it’s possible for members of the public to meet elected politicians face to face, and listen to entire speeches. It’s politics on a human scale.

Television, I thought afterwards, tends to present just one or two sound bites from a speech, and often the most contentious ones. It also tends to dramatise and highlight. Simply framing people within a television screen removes them from their context, and creates something artificial. I wondered whether half the problem with politics these days was that television had detached politicians from ordinary voters, and made them into something remote and unheeding and faintly glamorous.

I found myself wondering whether it might help to reconnect the two if cameras were to be sat within the audience, to provide something like the actual experience of someone sitting in it, including trying to see round someone’s head, and turning to look round at a speaker at the back. It would probably need smaller cameras. But it might provide a more intimate and accurate portrayal of a what it’s like to attend one of these events.

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8 Responses to A Trip to Torquay

  1. Anonymous says:

    Television and Journalism
    The 60s changed everything in Journalism. All of a sudden everything was “investigative” and “investigative” came to mean
    what roused people and not what was fact. The journalist’s bias and political leanings became what was reported and what wasn’t,i.e. The New York Times. Unfortunately this method of reporting has grown so rapidly that one stands little chance of hearing the “TRUTH”. Thank God for blogs like yours but too bad the people who really need to know the truth ever get the message.
    From a USAer member of the Silent Generation who remembers things the way they used to be.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Television and Journalism
    The 60s changed everything in Journalism. All of a sudden everything was “investigative” and “investigative” came to mean
    what roused people and not what was fact. The journalist’s bias and political leanings became what was reported and what wasn’t,i.e. The New York Times. Unfortunately this method of reporting has grown so rapidly that one stands little chance of hearing the “TRUTH”. Thank God for blogs like yours but too bad the people who really need to know the truth ever get the message.
    From a USAer member of the Silent Generation who remembers things the way they used to be.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I doubt very much that we would be invaded ,by whome ?
    The French hahahahahahahaha !
    The greenie Krauts hahahahahahahhaha!
    Belgium aaaaaahahahahahahahahahaha !
    No, their scared of us .

  4. Anonymous says:

    I doubt very much that we would be invaded ,by whome ?
    The French hahahahahahahaha !
    The greenie Krauts hahahahahahahhaha!
    Belgium aaaaaahahahahahahahahahaha !
    No, their scared of us .

  5. Anonymous says:

    I float like a butterfly and drink like a fish.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I float like a butterfly and drink like a fish.

  7. Frank Davis says:

    I just drink very slowly. A pint often lasts me an hour or more.
    Frank

  8. Frank Davis says:

    I just drink very slowly. A pint often lasts me an hour or more.
    Frank

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