This year here in Brighton we will once again be hosting the Labour Party as a location for its main annual conference. They are due into our city on Saturday 21st September and will depart on Wednesday 25 September. The Conservative Party are visiting Manchester where they will be located from Sunday 29th September to Wednesday 2nd October. The Liberal Democrats are due to visit Bournemouth from Saturday 14th to Tuesday 17th September. These three conferences are the one that have laid out the current arrangements so that if the prorogation was not being planned by Johnson, that Parliament would recess for the conference season from 12th September to 7th October. As I have written before on several occasions this is clearly a ridiculous waste of time as all three parties plus the other smaller parties could arrange for their conferences on the same week or as David Amess is now suggesting the same long weekend. Indeed given that Parliament usually ends work on a Thursday evening and returns on a Monday a two day delay to say Wednesday would be the most time needed for one week each year to enable the full range of political parties to hold their events. The only people who would be impacted are the media and commercial companies that have to attend each conference to try to engage with the politicians who like to be given a bit of profile. So both sectors would have to spread themselves out more thinly, but that would then enable our nation to get the politicians to focus more on Parliament and less on their own profile. Indeed not only do David Amess and I agree, but John Bercow does too. He interrupted the response from Jacob Rees-Mogg by stating “What a very sound question. I am even more delighted than usual to have called the hon. Gentleman so early. These are meetings of voluntary organisations which could perfectly well take place over a weekend. The idea that we should be away from our main place of work for this sort of indulgence will strike very large numbers of people across the country as bizarre.”
However Rees-Mogg whose tendency to lie down during the day due to his tired or lazy ness was not willing to consider that sort of approach. After criticising Bercow he explained that such suggestions are not appropriate:
“Mr Speaker, I wondered if you were going to suggest a job share. Perhaps I should sit in as Speaker on occasion and you should answer questions as Leader of the House. I am sorry to say that I have a slightly different answer to my hon. Friend Sir David Amess. Party conferences are an important part of the political process. I am really glad to say that this year’s Conservative party conference is going to be primarily an occasion for members. We are going to get back to putting members front and central, because they are the people who select us and for whom we work, and who campaign for us. Party conferences are important and it is a reasonable time to have. This House has not been that busy, it has to be said, earlier in the Session. Therefore, having a party conference is perfectly reasonable.”
Of course the irony is that most people would find it easier to attend conferences if they were over a long weekend and indeed although each party would get a little bit less profile if they all took place over the same long weekend, the idea of a one weekend a year approach is that the profile of party politics would actually be much greater.