6 October 2009

What a peculiar Tory conference backdrop

The staging of Conservative Party conferences was transformed under Margaret Thatcher with the help of Harvey Thomas, who'd previously been involved in organising Billy Graham's crusades to the UK.

One innovation, later copied by other parties, was to seat other delegates out of sight so that they couldn't be seen behind the speaker. This had the advantage of reducing potential distractions and of preventing the mass audience from being able to monitor how colleagues were reacting to a speech

Before Labour followed suit, for example, sitting behind Neil Kinnock during his leader's speech were Dennis Skinner and Alice Mahon, chatting and shaking their heads as some of the things he was saying.

Then there as the classic Newsnight interview in which Peter Snow took Frances Pym to task for not applauding in the right places and/or vigorously enough (as can be seen HERE).

This year's Tory conference managers have come up with an innovation that I don't understand and have yet to hear explained. Yesterday, William Hague got up to speak in front of an anonymous townscape. Manchester? A typical Tory suburb? Middle England? Or just what is it supposed to symbolise?

Whatever the answer, it certainly got me (and probably anyone else who was watching too) wondering what they're trying to tell us - thereby distracting us from concentrating as closely as we should have been doing on what he was actually saying (which could, I suppose, be the whole point of it).

Today, when George Osborne appeared, the same background seemed to have moved in closer behind the podium, which has got me wondering whether, by the time David Cameron gives his leader's speech on Thursday, we'll see him perched on the roof of one of the houses.

P.S. Later on in the afternoon when it was Ken Clarke's turn, the backdrop had moved backwards again, closer to where it had been when William Hague was speaking. Is it symbolising some sort of pecking order we don't know about, is it random or will all be revealed by the end of the conference?


timforchange said...

Yep it's a mystery to us as well. I think the idea is to represent real Britain, rather than some idealised green and pleasant land

Max Atkinson said...

If it's the 'real' Britain, why such a leafy suburb?

Best I can come up with is that they've written off the inner cities, think that the rural vote's already in the bag and are going for the core vote in suburbia.