Day three and Boris is still the Man.
The Conservative Party conference comes to an end today with the traditional keynote speech by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Whatever Cameron says, he will do well to take Boris Johnson’s position as the darling of the four day event. Yesterday saw delegates still talking about the Mayor of London’s triumphant arrival in Birmingham on Monday, which had seen him mobbed by press and public alike prior to a barnstorming speech which appealed to Party loyalists with its message of tax cuts and reference to the success of the Olympics. Despite his praise for David Cameron, Boris’s blatant populism both inside the ICC and on the streets of Birmingham will not have helped the Prime Minister celebrate a happy 46th birthday.
Inside the ICC, of particular interest to local people were speeches from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who reinforced the government’s commitment to the HS2 rail link between Birmingham and London and Jackie Powell, head teacher of Perry Beeches Free School.
Outside the conference hall the usual mixed bag of demonstrators made their presence felt. The morning belonged to the Naked Pensioners, half a dozen of whom braved the chill October air to strip to their underwear in a protest against pensions. Also present was Queen guitarist Brian May, who joined the ever-present animal rights group that have been campaigning against badge culling since Sunday.
Also in attendance was our very own John Bull, Ray Egan, who appeared to be protesting about the cost of the upcoming elections for a Police Commissioner. It’s not known whether anyone pointed out to him that he had been first in line to declare an interest in being the even more expensively-elected mayor of Birmingham. Other protestors included an anti-nuclear group and climate change demonstrators. There was also a noisy group of religious campaigners including a member of the British Ex-Service Christians Association, whose placard bore the enigmatic phrase ‘Hitler was a —-?’ calling for an end to gay rights legislation and for abortion to be made illegal.
If the pensioners provide the best photo-opportunity of the morning’s events, the afternoon belonged to the Break the Bag Habit coalition, a group including the Surfers Against Sewage pressure group and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, who are pressing for charges to be introduced on single use bags. They attracted the support of Tory MP Zak Goldsmith, who told us that while he hasn’t seen much of Birmingham he was looking forward to spending more time in the city. “It has a cool vibe,” he said.
Less impressed with events was the Big Issue seller outside Paradise Forum who said business hadn’t improved during the conference. “I think they wish I’d just go away,” was his comment.