Internet access here is ridiculously limited if you've forgotten to bring your own laptop, so a short reflection from the Tory Conference for the moment. Liam Fox, William Hague and Jeremy Hunt have been this morning's keynote speakers, and each has managed to demonstrate the facility of gaining ready applause by recycling some old tabloid fears or pushing the Tory crowd pleasing buttons. Thus, Liam Fox and William Hague both get decent responses to the "We will always support our brave forces" line, and Liam Fox managed to regurgitate some of the stories about men in uniform being refused service or harassed at shops, to rising anger from the few delegates still awake. I think there may have been one incident of that type a few years ago, but it goes down well here to remind us all that we are the party of "Our Boys" (rendering the conference a bit like a reality tabloid).
William Hague draws the prize for emptiest gesture receiving most applause yet. He announced a 'sovereignty clause' in any piece of EU legislation to pass through parliament henceforth. An utterly meaningless clause, since the the sovereignty of parliament stands as one of the few genuinely unquestioned aspects of our famously uncodified constitution. But it drew massive applause because (a) it involved an attack on Tory hate institution, the EU, and (b) he used the words "our ancient parliament" which always goes down well with this patriotic, history loving audience. Mind you, if they think parliament's current liberties and rights are ancient they may need a crash course from new History Tsar Simon Schama.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt employed the speech tactic beloved of David Cameron, by standing centre stage with no notes. Clearly his first bid for the leadership succession. He also drew applause by praising competitive sports. The ageing and rather somnolent audience clearly likes the idea of other, younger people competing hard. Hunt threw in a few button pushing phrases that seemed to suggest failure in competition really led to success, and then produced a tabloid-esque story about a primary school cancelling sports day because they were afraid children would fall down. Cue collective horror from outraged audience, whose most active role this morning was to squeeze into the seats.
We may have a new, fresh-faced coalition government, but tory delegates have merely emerged from a long state of suspended animation to carry on where they left off in the 90s.