Tara Hamilton-Miller: Delegates skirt the burning topic

It is packed in Birmingham. New blood has decamped from years of Labour and is now embracing the Conservatives. This is the first time for hundreds of delegates and you can spot them a mile off.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

The hotel atrium in the evening is where the throng meet, look over each other's shoulders and try to spot one of the new top dogs. One tiny bar is catering for thousands and is manned by a couple of 15-year-old girls.

Tories exchange pleasantries, then move on to the real conversation, which involves trying to outdo each other on how crap their hotel is. Complaints range from 'no running water', 'no Telegraph' to 'funny smell of bleach'. The winning offence is 'pillow filled with tights'.

At the back, there is another minuscule bar called Pravda where delegates are forced to queue to get in. The line waiting patiently cannot possibly be Conservatives, they must be civvies. No self-respecting Tory would ever queue to get into a pub.

The wives have picked up on the over-analysis of Samantha Cameron, Miriam Gonzalez and the Ryder Cup wags and have polished themselves up. It is probably safe to say that branches of Jigsaw and Hobbs will be kept afloat by this lot during the recession.

Child benefit is the topic of the week, but delegates are not talking about it - they don't want to be seen to be the one kicking up a fuss. They would rather talk about how 'George' is looking better; less like a startled child, filled out in the face a bit. A relief to many.

The smiles on the faces of MPs hide the fact they return to their constituencies to face the families who will miss the financial contribution. Asking tax-paying voters who have worked hard and done everything right to join in this Dunkirk spirit is not easy. Those who read continually about welfare abusers will not believe 'we are all in this together'.

Here, disgruntled thirty-somethings who forgot to procreate over the past decade (no doubt too busy coming up with Tory policy) look a bit miffed that their years of tax paying won't contribute to chicken nuggets when they finally get around to it.

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

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