Saturday, October 13, 2007

 

Do Conference Timings Advantage Tories?

Looking back on the fevered events of the past month, two aspects seem to stand out requiring change. The first is that parliamentary terms should be fixed, with elections slated for specific times, as in most other developed democracies. I can see no advantage to the present unfair system whereby the person most interested in winning the race, gets to fire the starting pistol. Moreover, we are surely fed up with the perpetual 'will he won't he' speculation that obsesses our politics usually after a government has done three to four years in power. This most recent speculation came, of course, after less than three months had elapsed. But, as with so many sensible necessary measures, this is unlikely to take place as the incumbent PM always hopes to benefit by the opportunity and aspirant PMs want to keep it too as a means of securing their second term.

The second possible change refers to the timing of party conferences. This point was made to me by a perceptive member of my current affairs discussion group whom I meet every Wednesday at the university: Bernard Bloom- he won't mind my describing him as a fellow 'political anorak'. His point is that by always convening last, the Conservatives benefit most from any 'conference bounce' produced. If Labour had 'conferenced' after the Conservatives, Bernard suggests there would have been a completely different outcome. Brown and Darling could have 'trumped' the aces deployed by Cameron and Osborne and would Cameron have risked his 'Bring it on' challenge not knowing what Brown was going to say the following week?

These are fair points. One might argue that going first bestows advantages too but not as many as going last: allowing one's 'last word' to resonate with voters. Who decides the order of the annual conferences? I've no idea, but guess it has been the product merely of custom and practice. Given the trick he is arguably missing, this might be something Brown actually does investigate and consider changing for future years. Always assuming, that is, he has future years available to him- something which at present and after the fearful Eton style kicking he suffered at PMQs, really does seem to be doubt.

Comments:
Very good point Bill, but surely this is the kind of question that politics lecturers are supposed to answer, not ask!!

I have always believed that the Tories gained a significant advantage from going last and I can only assume it's some hangover from the days when they thought they were the "natural party of government" and "born to rule" etc.

The fairest system in my view would be to rotate the running order so that everyone got a chance at going last, but failing that, I think the governing party should probably be permitted to have the last word.
 
Paul
Wish I could answer it...But I think some kind of rotation as you suggest, is the best way to go.
 
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