Conference Diary 2015: Back To The Future or a blast from the past?

Day three at Conservative Party Conference and I'm reminded of my first ever crush, writes Naomi Harris of Bellenden.

Don't re-enact too much history, warns Naomi Harris
Don't re-enact too much history, warns Naomi Harris
Now, I am not about to confess some strange desire for an old Tory grandee but rather I’m reminded of Michael J. Fox or more accurately his role as Marty McFly in the classic film, Back to the Future.  

We may be in 2015, but for those attending conference we could be back in the 80s.

For all the talk of a new age of ‘common ground’, the politics of left and right is back en vogue and the response from the Conservative Party faithful filling the Midland Hotel over several nights has been one of sheer delight.  

Whether it’s sharing experiences of running the gauntlet of protestors outside the secure zone or discussions about the UK’s economic policy, most conversations have a hint of ‘us vs them’, with them being the Corbynistas.

Meanwhile, the response from the party’s high command on the back of the Labour Party Conference, where the divisions were very clear to see, has been loud and clear – ‘present a unified front, do not break rank’.  

The Conservative Party is 'free from the shackles of the yellow peril', as one minister put it to rousing applause, but it’s also free (for now at least) from the fear of UKIP.  

The result is an emboldened and cohesive party – to a point.

Until today the biggest risk, so far as those who worry about these things are concerned, was the potential for a Conservative member, or worse still an MP, to rise to the provocation of a protestor after a couple of drinks and it being caught on camera.  

However, Theresa May’s speech on immigration has drawn fire from unusual suspects, not least The Daily Telegraph, and from business leaders who have suggested scaremongering.  

She received a standing ovation from the crowd before and after her speech, but the atmosphere in the conference hall was very different when Zac Goldsmith and Boris Johnson spoke.  

Her no-nonsense approach is certainly admired by many in the party, but the applause for her tough message was muted and not nearly as strong compared with Goldsmith and Johnson who followed her.
The Mayor always draws a crowd, but both he and his potential successor set out a positive vision for the future that radiated around the hall.  

And while Goldsmith started off a little bit nervous, he soon hit his stride and was able to work the crowd up, suggesting his campaign rallies could rival Jeremy Corbyn’s.  

Johnson, meanwhile, managed to make the jokes and land the serious points with a deftness of touch that will no doubt rattle May and the other leadership hopefuls.

Those who have followed the Back to the Future franchise know that Marty McFly’s time-travelling exploits continue in two more films.  

The Conservatives should be mindful not to make the same mistake as Marty and take too many steps back in time.  

A repeat of the 1990s would be perilous.

Naomi Harris is managing director, public affairs, at Bellenden

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