That is the question that both main parties took to their respective annual conferences.
Two weeks ago Brighton was in Labour, but last week Cottonopolis (Manchester) was in trouble.
Or was that Labour in Brighton and trouble at t’mill?
Either way, with 11 mentions in Jeremy’s speech against 15 mentions in Boris’ one, it was a victory for anyone who could stay awake.
Nobler in the mind
Voting at Labour’s conference was muddled. Some delegates were voting to abolish the Deputy Leader’s position, while others were voting to abolish Tom Watson himself.
Either way, Tuesday’s announcement by the Supreme Court did for Tom’s speech and Jeremy Corbyn simply took over. Nobody minded.
Slings and arrows
Voting on the motion which would have seen Labour back Remain in any future referendum has to be seen to be believed. After the show of hands for and against, chairperson Wendy Nichols said that she “thought it was one way and Jenny said something else so … that was lost”.
Following this you could clearly hear the audience chanting “card vote, card vote, card vote”.
Gamely trying, Wendy was observed saying “It was, in my view, it was carried … (voices off) … just … I know … (more voices off) … sorry sorry sorry, listen … (more) … I’m getting it … it was lost, sorry, sorry”.
So there you have it – verbatim.
An unhappy delegate at the podium then asked for a card vote… before describing it as “democracy in action”.
Which Wendy shut down immediately with “No, no … no, no, no, let’s … delegates no … Absolutely please sit down”.
Sea of troubles
A bewhiskered Len McCluskey was absolutely sat down already, some delegates sat absolutely down; while others sat down absolutely.
By this time, it wasn’t just infinitives that were splitting, sides were too.
In the end, it was up to the Leader to summarise.
Carefully selected extracts from Jeremy’s conference speech reveal that a) Boris Johnson is illegal and b) should be quashed.
The referendum result’s being hijacked by … a race to the bottom (though whose bottom it is remains unclear).
Labour is a democratic party which within three months of being elected will secure a sensible deal with the EU, then take the decision out of the hands of politicians and, by putting it to a public vote alongside Remain, let the people decide. (in case you thought we hadn’t already).
Rail, mail, water and the national grid will be brought into ownership of the public, run by [the public] for the public, while Ofsted’s going to be abolished and replaced with something that sounds twice as costly and half as effective.
Then in what was possibly an outbreak of policy, we heard about big corporations paying the tax they owe; the largest council house building programme in a generation; and new battery plants in South Wales, Stoke-on-Trent and Swindon.
He finished with some triumphs of rhetoric over logic and a vision for the young that was so bleak – even the sunlit uplands stuff that followed couldn’t disperse the glums.
To sleep, perchance to dream
A week later and entering to the intro of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’, the irony of the tune’s alternate title (Teenage Wasteland) seemed like a metaphor for the opening trail of success: devotion of staff; synthetic phonics; idealists in the police force; sheepyards (err, that’s a Govan pronunciation), global sales of yet unbuilt type 26 frigates; honouring Ruth Davidson’s legacy…
Boris was main-lining on Macmillan – the wonder drug that invigorates Prime Ministerial dreams.
Aye, there’s the rub
Then he woke up and found that the rub came from a pebble in his world-class athletic shoes – parliament.
It was compared to the pizza wheel of doom; described as needing to be put into special measures; or voted out of the jungle – whereupon Mr Speaker would be dining on kangaroo testicle.
No, sorry – still dreaming.
Make cowards of us all
For those who didn’t live in London (woe betide those who did), you were feeling left out, ignored, your town not getting love or investment and your views somehow becoming unfashionable or unmentionable.
But London was doing fantastically and its Crossrail project was still on track and on time when the previous mayor left office (guess who). It was only after he’d left the building that the £2 billion overspend and two-year delay got declared.
Great pith and moment
Then there was great news. We’d be building 40 new hospitals. Well, six have been identified anyway.
Then even better, “We are levelling up education funding across the country [so that] the schools that have fallen the furthest behind [are] now seeing the biggest increases”. This isn’t just good news, it’s fan-dabby-dozey GREAT news for Wokingham.
Repeat in unison after our Tory Councillors: “We ARE the lowest funded authority in the country”. No???
All my sins remember’d
And if all that weren’t enough, he talked of “creating an economic platform for dynamic free market capitalism”, before going on to ask “when did you last hear a Tory leader talk about capitalism”?
Well Boris, that would be around lunchtime on May 15th 1973 when the Conservative Prime Minister, Ted Heath, described Lonrho Ltd (now Lonmin plc) as “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism” after it had been involved in bribery and sanctions-busting scandals in Africa – with a sitting conservative MP and former cabinet minister as its chairman.
The Last Word
Jeremy kept his knees firmly astride the Euro-fence when it describing Labour’s B_____ policy and no amount of votes, card carrying or not, were going to make the slightest difference. But the anti-Blairite, anti-war themes, along with the clause four roll-back and the Kaa-like ‘trust in me’ stuff were very comparable with Michael Foot at his rhetorical best.
Boris was entranced by the white heat of fusion reactors, currently burning a hole in the country’s pocket. He got wifi and broadband mixed up and appeared to believe that it was being “brought forward 8 years” by government. His closing remarks convinced everyone. Well, almost everyone. Oh OK then, maybe not everybody, but at least one person believed it. (possibly his mum).
Verdict: No-score draw.