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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK


UK Politics

Standing out from the crowd in Blackpool



By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

Anyone who claims politics has been dumbed down and that all serious debate has been replaced by sycophantic support for party leaders would do well to read the motions presented to the Tory conference.

The 100-page document contains numerous suggestions on things like how to reform the tax system, crack down on benefit cheats and handle relations with Europe.

But a couple stood out from the crowd.

One of the many submitted by Dr Tom Temperley from Ribble Valley seemed to capture the mood of the rally by bluntly declaring: "This conference offers a vote of congratulation and support to William Hague."

Conference99
It is difficult to imagine the hours of work by loyal constituency party members that went into the drafting of that particular gem.

But probably the most significant by far was the motion submitted by Mr Alan Fearn from Rochdale who went straight to the heart of the political issues facing the nation by stating: "Labour's policies are all fur coat and no knickers."

I can't imagine what the animal rights lobby will make of that.

Tory chairman shapes up

Tory Chairman Michael Ancram recently confessed to taking up a radical new health regime.

He revealed to members of the House of Commons press corps that he had brought a new track suit and felt fitter every morning simply by looking at it.


[ image: Jogging: Michael Ancram]
Jogging: Michael Ancram
He had never actually worn it and it was still on its hanger, he declared.

Unfortunately for him, the confession badly backfired.

His words were so widely reported that his family took umbrage and insisted that he had to put his good intentions into practice.

As a result he has now joined the House of Commons gym and can be seen every morning jogging along the roads near his home.

"If I keep up this health regime it will probably kill me," he told me.

What's the big idea?

In case anyone at the Tory conference failed to get the message that William Hague had finally got the "big idea" to take on Labour at the next election, one glance at the stage in Blackpool's Winter Gardens would have put them right.

The big blue "bubbles" which formed the backdrop to the conference were, apparently, "thought balloons" of the sort used by comic strip artists.

Maybe next year the platform designers will come up with the idea of hanging a giant light bulb over speakers' heads which will light up whenever the speaker makes an important announcement.

Liam out-foxed

Veteran Labour left-winger Tony Benn once held the record for speaking at more party conference fringe meetings than any other MP.

But Tory frontbencher Liam Fox is clearly out to beat Mr Benn and get his name in the Guinness book of records.

He was so eager to appear at every meeting going that he was booked to speak at no less than three on the first day of the conference.

Unfortunately they were all at the same time so, unfortunately, some of his fans went home disappointed.

Hello! We're the Tories

Tory organisers came up with the great wheeze of "humanising" their leaders by doing a Hello! style interview with them for inclusion in the conference agenda.


[ image:  ]
They asked senior figures such as party boss Michael Ancram and conference chairman Brian Hanson a series of penetrating questions such as "what sign of the zodiac are you" and "what's your favourite television programme."

The most fascinating, however, was: "If you could place one item of legislation on the statute book, what would it be."

Mr Ancram wants to outlaw political correctness while policy guru Andrew Lansley thinks the public utilities should be forced to put their cables underground.

But the strangest answers came from Mr Hanson and the chairman of the party's "women's national council" Marney Swan.

Mr Hanson declared he wanted to outlaw body piercing while Ms Swan wants to keep Summer Time all year round.

I think there may be room for these people in the Official Monster Raving Loony Party - mind you, the barmiest ideas the much missed Screaming Lord Sutch could come up with were to lower the age of voting and allow pubs to open all day.



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