Come to the party? Thanks, but no thanks

It was the sort of event for people trying to survive a week at the conference on free peanuts and beer

THE OTHER day I received an invitation to the New Statesman party at the Labour Party Conference at Bournemouth, which was nice but unexpected. It was unexpected because I have no connection with the New Statesman apart from having done the the odd book review. It was nice, because it is always nice to get invitations to parties you don't have to go to, or indeed don't want to go to.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it was quite clear that this wasn't the sort of party which you drive a hundred miles to get to (which is what I would have to do). It was the sort of party which is thrown for people who are already staying just round the corner, or upstairs in the same hotel, hard at work covering the Labour Party Conference, or taking part in it, or trying to survive for a week there on free peanuts and beer, or merely trying to disrupt it...

Like most people in this country, I have never been to a party conference. Like most people in this country, it has never occurred to me to go to a party conference. Like most people in this country, it has never occurred to me to want to go to a party conference, any more than it has occurred to me to want to go to an Orange parade, an arms fair, a ploughing competition or a Radio 1 Roadshow. These are all for the initiates, the people who take it seriously. It's nice that these things happen, I suppose, as long as they don't involve us.

The difference between party conferences and ploughing competitions, apart from the fact that ploughing sounds as if it might be visually interesting, is that ploughing competitions are not widely reported and given very little TV coverage. But party conferences, in this curious time of year when summer is reluctantly over, and autumn hasn't quite got the hang of things yet, and the TV companies haven't started their fresh season of brand new repeats yet, party conferences are all over the screens like some dreadful virus. Party conference coverage fills the media like flood water in the basement, full of strange floating objects and contamination dangers.

It's that time of year when John or Jim is mysteriously in Harrogate. You know that, because Radio 4's Today tells you so. "Today comes from Sue and me in the studio, and Jim in Harrogate."

For a moment you wonder why Jim has to go to Harrogate to present a morning Radio 4 programme. Then it clicks. Jim is in Harrogate to cover a party conference! Then it clicks again, but this time it's the off switch.

It's the time of year when Tony Blair gets up at a podium and says that he wants to be Prime Minister until he drops dead, and the people who are at the conference get so excited at this that it becomes the lead item on BBC news and in Sunday papers, and the rest of us think "So what?" and look to see if there is any real news.

Because nobody, except the people who are there at Bournemouth, has the slightest interest in these things. Even in the days when party conferences genuinely decided things, and changed policy, there was not much noticeable excitement on the part of the public. Nowadays, when party conferences are meetings of the faithful, where the faithless don't get any time at the microphone, where everything is controlled and nothing spontaneous, and where Tony Blair reading bad poetry - too bad to parody - is thought to be news, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should pay attention.

Party conferences, to put it another way, are just like the Edinburgh Fringe. If you're at Edinburgh, as I know from experience, it seems like the centre of the universe, the hub of some wonderful soap opera. If you're not there, it means nothing. If you're not there, even the Perrier Award means nothing. But if you are there - as all these TV and radio producers and comic comperes and arts commentators are - it seems terribly important and the airwaves get filled with it, while the rest of us have to suffer, as if we've blundered into someone else's birthday party.

Same with party conferences.

Dear Mr Kington, I take it this means you won't be coming to the party? Yours, `The New Statesman'.

Dear New Statesman, Yes, thanks very much. Hope it goes well, though.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence