The political conference season is well underway. SNP and Liberal Democrat gatherings have been held online, with Labour activists currently in Brighton and the Conservative faithful soon convening in Manchester.
But how captivating will these assemblies be?
In Ponsonby’s Perspective on STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight, Bernard Ponsonby argued that the events of today badly lack the personalities and drama of decades gone by…
Memorable conference moments
From developments of genuinely historical importance, to an assassination attempt on Margaret Thatcher in 1984, conferences often throw up memorable moments
William Hague famously made his conference debut in 1977 at the age of 16, while in 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May had a prolonged bout of coughing, which completely torpedoed the momentum of her speech.
In Scarborough in 1960, Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell saw his reputation enhanced when he pledged to “fight, fight and fight again” against unilateral disarmament, despite the fact he actually lost the conference vote on the subject.
Gaitskell’s 1960 speech was big on courage and high on drama. It would take another quarter of a century to see anything like it. That came in Bournemouth in 1985 when Neil Kinnock launched a memorable verbal assault on the entryists of the Militant Tendency.
Often politicians get drunk on rhetoric and conferences can become a spur to take them into the realms of the ridiculous. Cue David Steel’s famous rib tickler from 1981.
SNP conferences are now tame affairs. The most dramatic scenes in the party’s history came in 1982 when leader Gordon Wilson announced it was his intention to ban all internal groups following a state of civil war ignited by the formation of the left-wing 79 Group.
I pine for the political culture of yesteryear with its big personalities, great debates and sense of politics being a calling for those of high principle.
So far, this conference season has been a confirmation that bland is the prevailing trend.