Sunday, October 02, 2016

Birmingham conference diary - few protestors, lots of queues

The atmosphere in Birmingham this weekend has been completely different from that in Manchester during last years' Conservative gathering.
For a start, I've not seen a protestor all weekend, not even the perfectly well-mannered kind who just hold placards. On Saturday night in the area of the conference hall there were large numbers of policemen and policewomen, most in high visibility jackets, some in dark clothing and carrying sub-machine guns. There were lots of people in the area, some very smartly dressed but unless I am very mistaken indeed the vast majority were Brummies out on the town enjoying the varied nightlife of one of Britain's great cities rather than conference attendees, thought it was only possible to tell the difference if you recognised a face or in the case of the small minority of people here for the conference who had forgotten that  we are not supposed to wear our conference passes outside the secure area.

The main conference did not start until 2pm this afternoon but there was a meeting of the National Conservative Convention - constituency chairmen plus regional and area officers - at 10.30 this morning and here was one of the first differences to the way conference normally runs.

By about ten past ten a queue about a quarter of a mile long had built up outside the area where people attending the conference area were x-rayed and and security checked to make sure we weren't terrorists or DA'ESH suicide bombers.

(If that sounds like a joke it isn't - no regular conference-goer of a vintage to remember the IRA attack on the Grand Hotel at the 1985 Conference which narrowly failed to kill Mrs Thatcher and did kill four people would fail to understand the need for conference security.)

There is never normally such an enormous queue so long before the opening of the main conference and I have to assume that a lot of people decided to arrive early rather than run a gauntlet of people spitting, throwing eggs, and chanting things which start at "Tory Scum" and go down in politeneheress from there.

Not that there were any such protestors this morning..

Either they used up all their energy last week at their own conference shouting "Blairite Scum" at one another, or West Midlands Police had corralled them away out of egg-throwing range.

I believe there was a TUC rally outside at about 2pm and it passed off peacefully.

That was the first of a number of enormous queues we rapidly got used to during the day: there are a lot of people at the conference. However, the queues have generally moved rapidly.

It has to be said that the police and G4S people responsible for security at the conference seem to know exactly what they are doing and to be getting on with it very efficiently indeed.

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