Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alien Invasion

There's an alien invasion in Manchester this week, as the Conservative party conference comes to town. Alien, in a very real sense, as whilst when Labour comes to town there will be lots of meeting with old friends, and obvious allies, there's hardly any Conservative presence in the city - with not a single Conservative councillor in Manchester itself.

But this is a precursor, in many ways, for what will happen if the Conservative Party win the next election. They will be, to all intents and purposes, the party of the south, with some northern outposts. Manchester, being very welcoming, might even welcome these particular aliens, but not if they bring with them their bad habits - you know the kind of thing, slashing taxes for the rich, foxhunting, closing SureStart centres, hanging out with jackbooted far right groups in Europe. A few little local customs are one thing, but these aliens need to do a lot more to assimilate if they want to be taken seriously across the whole country. The legacy of Thatcher, of course, is that they didn't ever see this as important - its why they hardly exist in Scotland these days, for instance. Whereas the Scots might grumble about a Labour government in England, at least its a grumble that is more of a family feud. A Conservative government in England could potentially have next to no representation in Scotland - which would surely precipitate the breakup of the UK. Hardly what David Cameron wants on his plate in his first days in power.

I'd like to know where Cameron, and more correctly, the party that stands behind him, stand on a number of issues. Sometimes Cameron, with his Smiths albums, easy charm, and liberal tendencies, appears the nicer side of Conservatism, but you wonder about the antediluvian hordes coming up his rear. They will, I'm sure, have initiatives aplenty, but initiatives are what breeds the kind of quango that the Conservatives have loathed (and perhaps rightly so) about "new Labour." I can't imagine a new localism coming from the centre, not when Northern cities such as Manchester remain Labour, even if the love for the party nationally is highly strained.

The arts, I fear, will suffer immeasurably, under a Conservative administration - its one of those "softer" areas of public spending that Labour, to its infinite credit, has seen "in the round", offering economic and social as well as more direct benefits. If we're a society that can afford £2,000 to new car owners, to scrap their old, then I'm sure we can afford the "experience" culture that is crucial in the arts. I was at the TedX Manchester Conference yesterday, and it was a mixed bag of speakers, but with the wonderfully diverse people ecology of urban Manchester out in force. The repeated message of the day seemed to be about disruption to business models, a deliberate provocation given we were in the BBC on Oxford Road. The week before I heard Andrew Keen speak in Liverpool, and its interesting to get his contrarian views on social media, the internet, and, yes, blogging. Somebody somewhere needs people to be paid for what they do. After all, the freelancers and others at these conferences don't get their networking drinks paid all evening, or the taxi home. One imagines a journalist is often tempted, when asked to provide their expertise for free, to say, "yes, but can I have this round on the house as well?"

I don't see this as a natural constituency even amongst the libertarian wing of the Conservative party - despite there being more right-wing than left-wing political bloggers. I guess blogging is partially a culture of opposition, as it is.

So if an alien from the Conservative party finds themselves in the Northern Quarter on Tuesday night, I do hope they pop into the Manchester Social Media Cafe at the Northern - just as long they keep some of their more alien habits to themselves

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hardly aliens Adrian. You only have to travel a few miles from Albert Square to find places where plenty of Tory voters live. Stockport, Urmston, Bury, Sale, Altrincham and many other suburbs are solidly Tory and many of these people show up every day in central Manchester to sit at their computers for 8 hours - an alien invasion every day!

There's more to Manchester than Wilmslow Rd from the city centre to Didsbury you know.