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

Project Coordinator - Cisco Partner - £110 p/d

£110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator (SC Cleared), Cisco Go...

Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: genius of Apple, fools and commercial enterprises, and the Queen

John Rentoul
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

i Editor's Letter: Douglas Carswell's defection

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone