Prior to this year’s Tory conference beginning, delegates were warned by none other than Lord Feldman, the chair of the Conservative Party, to hide their passes when outside the secure zones for fear of physical attack. I didn’t need anyone from the Tories to tell me that walking around Manchester with a CPC pass on wasn’t particularly wise. And so it turned out to be, with several ugly incidents involving baying mobs and spitting yesterday outside the conference zone.
This begs the question I ask myself every couple of years when Tory conference in Manchester comes round again: why does the Conservative Party continue to hold its annual conference in the most Labour city in Britain? Every single one of Manchester’s councillors is from the Labour Party. But let’s not rely on dry facts. I lived in Manchester in the late 90s. I can tell you back then, it was a hotbed of working class leftism; no contact with the city since has convinced me that it has changed in this respect. Yes, the Cheshire suburbs are as Tory as you like, but the actual city is beyond parody in this respect. I recall at my local, in Levenshulme, the highest compliment anyone could be paid was, “You’re a good socialist”.
Do they think that by repeatedly having their conference in Manchester, they will be able to “convert” the city? I myself go on about us all living in an age of Tory hegemony currently, but the Socialist Republic of Mancunia is beyond any possible Conservative seduction technique. It simply can’t be done. It’s like Labour holding their conference in Witney every couple of years or the Lib Dems doing the same in Clacton-upon-Sea; politics is already difficult, why make life extra difficult for yourselves?
Or perhaps (as per usual) the Tories are much more clever than we imagined and the whole thing is a brilliant trap set for the Left to fall into. If so, the plan appears to be working: most of the incidents reported yesterday were of journalists being spat at, which obviously meant they had a rather high chance of being well, reported. Also – and here’s the kicker – Jeremy Corbyn is coming up to Manchester to play his own small part in the proceedings today. Stuff like what happened in Manchester yesterday has always been tricky for Labour leaders of the past – which is why they’ve always kept themselves at arms length of any such incidents. With Corbyn actually physically there, the script writes itself for the Tories: Labour leader, one who called for a kinder, more mature politics, gives tacit approval to spitting mob. And that’s if nothing worse happens today.
Me, I’m headed north myself today, with some trepidation I might add. I will try to enjoy the bars and restaurants of Manchester. Without my conference pass on, obviously.