Activists plan ‘rave’: Conservative answer to Glastonbury, designed to provide a cool gloss to Theresa May’s party
Henry Mance, FT’s Political Correspondent writes: “Camping. Slow food. Inspirational speakers. A Pyramid stage. It could be Glastonbury, except for one feature: Tory activists . . . The festival will be invitation-only with between 150 and 200 attendees, some of whom will camp”.
Mr Freeman said he hoped the event would become an annual fixture, adding that this year’s festival would be like a “first rave, you’ll remember who you brought” – unlikely!
Organisers of a new “Conservative Ideas Festival” are hoping to revive the spirit and popular appeal of Theresa May’s party after its battering in June’s general election. The party’s membership has fallen to somewhere below 150,000 — less than one-third that of Labour’s and not far ahead of the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats.
The party has fallen behind Labour in opinion polls, while Mrs May’s personal ratings are below those of Mr Corbyn, who was once seen as unelectable.
George Freeman, the Norfolk MP who chairs Mrs May’s policy board, came up with the idea after Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn took the Glastonbury Festival by storm this summer. “Why is it just the left who have all the fun in politics?” he said after Mr Corbyn’s appearance. saying his idea for a rightwing festival “seems to have struck a chord” and that he had “some wonderful offers of help of sponsorship and venues”. He told the Financial Times this week that he had raised £25,000 for a one-day event to be held in September.
The Conservatives will also hold their annual party conference in Manchester at the start of October, charging companies £32,500 for a 6m by 6m exhibition stand. Can’t wait!
In July Peter Hitchens wrote: “Globalisation hasn’t worked but our elite have not yet been held to account”. As he said, the EU referendum result was a heartfelt protest, but is Brexit likely to enhance the lives of those who made that protest? He continued:
“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security”.
But people are re-engaging with politics
Hundreds of thousands have joined Labour. Tens of thousands have joined the SNP, Greens, Tories and, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems – and this, in an age when we have been told that people no longer want to get involved in politics. The growing adherence to Sanders, Corbyn, the SNP and radical parties in Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland suggest that the existing order is being challenged and new hope is emerging.
In a different article Hitchens said: “If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap. Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character”.
Is it just a matter of time before parties regroup?
Some Conservative and Labour voters are moving to UKIP, some to the Liberal Democrats – and others are listening to calls for a cross-party progressive alliance.
In July there was a “Post-Brexit Alliance” meeting with speakers including the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga from Take Back the City and the Guardian’s John Harris. This month, a statement calling for progressive parties to work together for electoral reform was published; it is signed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party.
‘Principled, grown-up politics’ indeed.