The fourth and final day of the conference is all about the leader’s speech, with very little else of note taking place. Which is a good thing, as after I’d started by oversleeping and then checking out of the hotel I didn’t get to the conference until late morning anyway.
So, while waiting for the big speech to start, I whiled away my time hoovering up freebies from the various exhibition stands. Chocolate, jelly babies, pickles (the ones you eat, not the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), curry, popadoms, apples, cake, pens, yoghurt, cheese, notebooks (paper, not computer), mints, a candle, more cake, more pens, water (bottles of), a jigsaw puzzle, stress balls, magazines, apple juice, yet more pens, a ruler and a couple of bags. Most of the edibles were consumed on the spot (I didn’t need a large lunch after all that), the rest came home with me. I was slightly disappointed that I missed out on the cupcakes from the Conservative Muslim Association – they offered me one as I walked past shortly after arriving, but having just had breakfast I didn’t fancy one at the time. And when I went back later they’d all been eaten. In between, on various stands I was invited to support campaigns both for and against HS2 (only one of which got my support), join the NASUWT, contribute to Islamic Relief, test my driving skills with my vision deliberately impaired (something to do with an insurance company, I think), have my hearing checked by Specsavers (I gave that a miss), agree that The Big Society Needs The Bible, buy a teddy bear from the Conservative Disability Group, have a massage in a holistic bubble, back Boris, test my knowledge of first aid (pretty good, as it happens) and have my spine tested by a chiropractor (I declined that one as well). If you thought that political party conferences were all about politics, you’d be, well, right, actually – all of these organisations were, of course, trying to drum up support for their chosen cause or lobby on behalf of their interests. But it does make things more interesting and provide a bit of light relief in between all the meetings.
David Cameron’s speech has already been dissected and analysed in far more depth than I’ve got time for here, so I’m not going to bother – read tomorrow’s newspaper if you want to know what he had to say. Slightly surprisingly, the hall wasn’t completely full, a fact noted by some commentators who wondered whether it had anything to do with dissent in the party. But I think the reason is more prosaic: Last year, apparently, the hall was smaller and a lot of people who queued for entry didn’t get in. That meant that a fair number of people this year either looked at the queue and thought it was too long and therefore didn’t join it, or didn’t even bother to stay for the PM’s speech at all. Which, coupled with a larger hall this year, meant empty seats. In fact, queuing was entirely unnecessary this year unless you wanted to sit near the front.