Tara Hamilton-Miller: Oh, those dreaded conference photos

It is that time of the year again, when Westminster packs up and migrates to another part of Britain to debate, stay up late and showcase big hearts and big ideas.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

The party leaders are in a bubble for five days, with photographers everywhere. It's a challenge for even the most seasoned press teams to make sure any walkabout to an innocent farmer's market or community college doesn't turn into a titter-fest, and to fight off the 'unavoidable conference picture'.

The only MP who has ever managed to pull off a really good conference photo opportunity was, of course, Tony Blair - playing keepy-uppy with Kevin Keegan.

The strange seaside photo opportunities have already kicked off at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth. Nick Clegg played it safe posing for a cappuccino with his pretty wife - so far, so good. Hours later, sleeves rolled up, he was on the beach playing cricket. He chose to bowl rather than bat. Smart move: less opportunity to be dealt a googly from a seven-year-old.

At last year's Labour conference there was talk of man-child Foreign Secretary David Miliband taking over from troubled leader Gordon Brown. The defining moment that dispelled any such notions came when Miliband inexplicably brandished a banana and ended up on every front page. The banana was not cradled in Miliband's paw; no, he held it up, proud, shoulder-height and cocked his head at a jaunty angle. Granted, no-one was hurt, but it just looked odd - and Brown clung on.

Next week in Brighton, Labour delegates will attempt not to look too crestfallen. Despite the fact that many Labour MPs will not be attending, and plotting is predicted to reach levels that will make the Tories look like amateurs, Brown will grin a lot. He will be hoping for photos of himself with some supportive youths, while Sarah Brown stands in the background Twittering about her cooked breakfast and Tessa Jowell's tights.

The Tories in Manchester will be the opposite: they won't be grinning, much. MPs will consume their own body weight in alcohol. Smiling will be tolerated, but no guffawing or high-fives. And if it's fizzy, it's Cava.

Note to all: stay away from fruit.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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