The party conferences were fairly lacklustre, receiving a generally loop warm reception from the general public. Both of the main parties failed to break out of their predetermined stereotypes and advocated little change. For Labour, who have lost significant support following the Scottish referendum and where there is a growing rumble from activists within the party hoping fora new approach, the conference confirmed that the reform they crave is unlikely to be delivered any time soon. The Conservatives, while Cameron delivered a great speech, did little to instil confidence in the working classes who feel alienated by the current government’s policies. While no longer able to be considered a key player in the political playing field, the Liberal Democrats did little to save themselves from extinction.
With the upcoming election in May 2015, the policies advocated at the conferences are of even more significance. The growing threat from UKIP and the discontent from the 45% of pro Scottish independence voters should have driven the parties to bring their ‘A-game’ to this year’s conferences. On the contrary, they lacked vision and in many cases, failed to address the electorates concerns.
Ed Miliband’s failure to mention the deficit and immigration cast a dark cloud of the whole Labour party conference. How can the public be expected to place confidence in a leader who has failed to mention two of the most contentious issues in the current political climate? UKIP and Farage are rapidly gaining votes for their hard line approach towards immigration. Labour ignoring this issue will have isolated this portion of voters and further discredited their campaign. Economic factors taking what seemed a lower priority implied that this was not a main concern of the party. Seeing as opinion polls preceding the conferences implied that the Conservatives were more trusted than Labour with economy, this mishap would have done little to increase confidence in the party’s ability.His references to the NHS were more impressive but were met with many asking how Labour would fund such an elaborate scheme. After all, as Cameron noted, a strong NHS is dependent on a strong economy.
Labour did manage to imply that the Conservatives continued to benefit those at the top and ignore the middle and lower classes to an extent.This was achieved by committing to expansions on childcare support, a million new homes, tax cuts for small businesses and strengthening minimum wage. Claims that ‘Red Ed’ is back are however, far off the mark with Milibandmerely appealing to the middle ground rather than shifting the party towards the left. Labour reformists were left unsatisfied by the commitments of the party as John McDonell MP, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs believes more change is needed with an emphasis on a pledge to end privatisation, especially the NHS.
While Cameron managed to note all of the key policy areas, media reports focused on his unfortunate slip of the tongue in which he stated his party resented the poor leading to ridicule from both the media and his opponents. However, Cameron’s address can be applauded with a strong delivery and good response from his party. Cameron’s commitment to the NHS was more substantiated in comparison to Labour as it was supported by rigid economic policy.Cameron’s approach of presenting an image of what a majority Conservative government would be able to achieve was a clever move. In shifting blame of shortcomings of the last four years onto the Liberal Democrats, Cameron suggests that his party have more to give the British people if re-elected to lead the country without being confined to a coalition. Cameron’s speech can be seen as a firm piece of electioneering now May 2015 is firmly on the horizon.However on the whole the Conservatives did little to alter the view that they are primarily appealing to the elite with continued emphasis on the economy and limited policies advocated to address the concerns of the lower classes.
While the Lib Dems have a slim chance of being elected in next year’s election, Clegg managed to establish his and his party’s commitment to change and attempt to amend perceptions. Out of all three leaders, he made the most concerted effort to commit to reform. Clegg knew that his parties decrease in popularity was largely due to its involvement in the coalition so took the opportunity within his conference speech to address this and confirm that this is not an option in May 2015. However, with the party experiencing ever dwindling support, the Lib Dems are more able to make promises as the likelihood of them having to be implemented is next to none.
Overall the conferences were fairly non-descript. Miliband’s speech was lacking in both address and content. Cameron on the other hand managed a great speech with some clever electioneering characteristics. However, the content also did little to inspire. In terms of speech delivery, in this round it was Miliband 0 – Cameron 1.With the growing threat of UKIP and the discontent in Scotland it would be expected the leaders would have attempted to address the electorate’s concerns head on. And as the election draws closer, the conferences have shed little clarity on what the potential result could be.