I hate conference. It's like queueing at an abattoir

Exclusive column: What do politicians really think of their annual shindigs? This leaked memo from Coalition minister Peter Mannion to a long-standing Tory friend reveals all...

Share
Related Topics

Dear Colin,

Can it really be a year since we got rat-arsed at that awful tapas bar? It doesn't seem possible, does it?

Yet here I am again, unpacking my Y-fronts and policy papers in a mid-range hotel room so dull and oppressive I'm almost GLAD when one of Stewart's teenage wonks drops by with another "hot button briefing". Actually, the last speccy twerp was quite useful, managed to get the telly working. (Did you know that brush-faced buffoon Noel Edmonds is back? Wearing fancy dress, opening boxes. Had no idea. And people blame US for the state this country's in.)

Have switched off the telly now, left the room and moved to something called a Residents' Lounge. It's one of those hotels des nouveaux, you know the sort. Ghastly "buffet breakfast room" filled with shark-eyed reps and provincial wedding guests, bloody awful pop music hanging in the air like a bad smell. Christ, these places always make me feel like Philip Larkin.

Conference is definitely the worst thing about being In Government. Oh, standing on a stage talking bollocks through a shit-eating grin to rows of back-stabbing bastards is grim enough whichever political tribe you belong to. But there's something exquisitely horrible about being the last lot on. You can see how badly it's gone for the other parties. Hostile delegates. Bloody media hanging round the fringe like sarcastic zombies. It's like being in a queue at the abattoir. Ha ha, oh look there are my opponents up ahead, shuffling towards Kirsty Wark and her bolt gun. Oh wait, I'm next…

Did you catch the other conferences? I mean the main two, obviously. I'm assuming that neither of us gives a toss about the early ones: the thin vegetarian cyclists from Brighton, the fat Battle of Britain fetishists from Hove etc. Opposition had the usual car crash, didn't they? We all slowed down to gawp at the damage but to be honest, I couldn't even recognise most of the casualties. No, what really boiled my piss was the shameless performance of a certain Fergus Williams at the Inbetweeners' conference. Did you see him? Oily little shit.

When he stands there exuding that fake bonhomie, that counterfeit confidence, he reminds me of every fucking estate agent I've ever met. More front than Harrod's. Less spine than a jellyfish. Pretending he and his mates have acted as "the Coalition's Conscience". Congratulating himself on his party being a "moral weather vane" for the Government, pointing us all in the right direction. As I briefed off the record shortly afterwards, a WEATHER VANE SIMPLY INDICATES WHICH WAY THE WIND'S BLOWING. He's insufferable.

Ah, I hear you say. ALL politicians are insufferable now. You're right. Never before have we been so universally despised. We used to be in a stratum of contempt just above burglars and phone-hackers. Not any more. Instead of doing our job – a bloody important job, I might add – we're now supposed to spend our time on "damage limitation". Eating double portions of shit-cake. Apologising to everyone. Oh boo hoo, someone's hurt your feelings? Try fielding a constituency surgery (nearly) every week, you fucking cry-babies. Christ knows I hate us more than anyone now. I for one would love to see this Coalition die on its lopsided arse; it's just making everyone look bad.

I suggested we crammed Stewart into a circus cannon and fired him though the "high cloud" to see what cultural impact he might have on, say, Croydon.

Still, at least Stewart Pearson's zeitgeisty, guff-wafting gibberish seems to be on the way out. I remember when Conference was like a spiritual homecoming for him. Zipping around on his little scooter like a Beach Boy on diet pills, shouting "Dotcom!" and "Love not Legislation!" and "Unthink the Rethinkable!" or whatever. This year he actually proposed – and here I shudder – a "policy version of the popular TV show The Voice". Don't ask me, it's probably hosted by Noel Edmonds.

Stewart genuinely wanted me and three other Ministers of the Crown to sit in huge red PVC thrones, facing AWAY FROM (?) a succession of gormless, partially-baked members of the Youth Wing (can't call it that now: too "Isherwood"). The hopeful kids would then "audition" by pitching "high cloud" (ill-considered, unworkable) policy ideas. Mercifully, JB pulled the plug before I could properly discern what it was all about. Word from Number 10 was "it looks like we're having too much fun". JB's either an idiot (possible) or he was slapping Pearson down (let's hope). Then we had a "thought jam" to come up with a better idea. I suggested we crammed Stewart into a circus cannon and fired him though the "high cloud" to see what cultural impact he might have on, say, Croydon. No-speaks for the rest of the afternoon.

I'd better go. I have a speech to write and I don't even know what I'm allowed to put in it. Can you say "current climate" in the current climate? Ah well, what difference does it make it the end, eh? Pulvis et umbra sumus, mate. We are dust and shadow…

Yours,

Peter

Peter Mannion is a character from The Thick Of It, which continues next Saturday, 13 October, at 9.30pm on BBC 2.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style