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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
 

David Mellor has been exposed as an awful man, but should he have been?

Simon Kelner
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire