Harper Pepperswitch’s 2010 Conference Diary

This is not happy reading so the more squeamish amongst you may wish to look away.Don’t say we didn’t warn you (see our intro to HP’s last offering).

But full marks to the young whippersnapper for a comprehensive confession.

W4MP Ed.

 

Day 1

It wasn’t hard to leave the Westminster Office behind, I relished the opportunity to stretch my wings a bit, flex some political muscle, chew the fat with some Party HQ big-wigs etc…both Sandy and Jim couldn’t attend the conference, Jim was off buying bulk rape seed oil in Malaga whilst Sandy has an acute fear of anything north of Euston Road.

It was up to me to represent the Office of Jim Poole MP (as was clearly emblazoned on my conference pass).

My train trip was uneventful, a few familiar faces but nothing of note. I was met on arrival by a large banner “Welcome to Conference” it read in ‘action italic’, underneath someone had sprayed a four letter expletive alongside a male organ.

Besides the schoolroom profanity, I was also faced with a large queue for a taxi; it appeared that every party hack and journo had chosen precisely the same time to arrive; no one knew where they were going and there was no chance of asking directions from the local populous; with their strange dialect, Ladbrokes betting slips, ponytails and obvious contempt for the political invasion occurring.

After a 43 minute wait and a £4 fare I arrived at the hotel. Seemingly I was driven round the one-way system and down a side street; it turns out that my hotel was only a brisk 10 minute walk from the station. Still it was a treat to endure the 5 minute ear bashing from the driver on tax credits.

The accommodation booked months in advance was an interesting setup, “more Middle East than Middle England” read one review, whilst another complained of “erroneous fluid in the sink upon arrival”; it was no Four Seasons but then at least I was within stumbling distance of the conference venue…. this attribute well known to be the fundamental prerequisite when deciding on conference hotels.

Unpacking my bags, I took time to appreciate the view out of my sole A4 window (a mechanics and skip hire facility) before double triple locking the door.

I nodded to the vacant looking teen at the reception desk on my way out, gave my party lapel badge a buff and did a swift backcomb of the hair… conference here I come!

As I neared the conference venue an almighty crowd descended upon me… I was surrounded by a gaggle of people pimping freshly printed paper “save the grey badgers of Norfolk!” said one as he thrust a leaflet in my face, another proclaiming that “vegetarianism works” before directing me over to a stand giving away free aubergine pesto.

I eventually entered the secure zone with enough paper to make Staples look like a digital media business.

Walking into the conference centre itself was a thrill, the place was buzzing with atmosphere, it was the ultimate bastion of political fervour.

I spent the rest of the day, attending debates, discussions and generally having a constructive time.

At 6pm, just when I was making headway on some Middle East discussions, in the heat of the moment I started on the sauce, the rest of the day came and went, next thing I knew I was heading out of the turn-styles and walking down a dark unfamiliar street.

I had discovered Conference drinking: free booze, on tap anywhere and at any time… it was sensational.

It was at this point I realised that I had not eaten a single meal all day, on my stumble back I managed to find ‘Dixie Texas American Chicken’ and quickly dispatched twelve ‘chicken’ wings whilst standing in a phone booth.

I eventually arrived back at the Hotel for 3:00am, just about managed to take off one shoe and then took a glug of mouthwash (swallowed) before collapsing on my springless wonder of a bed.

Day 2

Needless to say, my plan to wake up in time for the 8:30am breakfast debate on ‘disabled access in inner city venues’ did not come to fruition. It was well into lunchtime before I emerged from my crispy bed sheets and ran my hair under the dribble of tepid water in the en-suite shower.

I decided I was going to be constructive, I was going to the fringes, to debate and talk about the future of the party, no wait…. the future of the country! I was not going to give in to Bacchus and his naughty fruits.

I arrived at the conference venue with a spring in my step, a pocket full of aspirin and tannin stained lips. Day two was going to be different.

I strode defiantly thought the assembled paper jackals, and after an enthusiastic frisking by a peak capped security guard I whapped out the conference diary, bought myself and overpriced macchiato sat down and planned my day.

13:00: Transport in Humberside, Roundtable Discussion.
14:00: Voting for a sustainable future: reflections on thermo-energy in Europe.
14:30: Cup of tea, muffin, quick scan of blogosphere.
16:00: Reception on Industry and planning, share small-talk with guest Minister.
17:00: Animal Welfare: agenda priorities reception.
18:00: N.H.S. in England reception, talk to local Primary Care Trust rep.
20:00: Dinner; wholesome crayfish salad, glass of Fanta, Kitkat.
21:00: Evening debate with Europe Association, ONE glass of red wine.
22:00: Green tea in hotel room, News at 10.
22:30: Bed

It was only the following morning, that I realised things hadn’t gone quite as planned, from what I recall, here is how the day panned out:

13:00: Transport in Humberside, Roundtable Discussion.
14:00: Voting for a sustainable future: reflections on thermo-energy in Europe.
14:30: Cup of tea, muffin, quick scan of blogosphere.
16:00: Reception on Primary Care Trusts, four glasses of House Red.
17:00: Walked into reception about dogs, more House Red.
18:00: Reception about health, snaffled as many sausage rolls as I could fit in pocket.
20:00: Some reception about public affairs with beer.
21:00: Not sure but I think they served mini-bagels.
22:00: Fell down escalator, told everyone I meant to do it, quickly walked away.
22:30: Found earring wearing PR bloke in hotel bar, talked about crisp brands.
23:00: errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr??
00:00: Ran into head of policy, slurred “lets cut expenditure” wiped face on shirt.
01:00: Found sausage rolls in pocket – jackpot.
03:00: Dixie Chicken.
03:15: Fell in bush.
03:45: Picked self out of bush.
04:00: Arrived at Hotel, couldn’t find light switch, brushed teeth in dark.
04:05: Bed, again fully clothed.

Day 3

After yesterdays failed attempt, at ‘conferencing’ I decided that today I would completely ban myself from liquor.

Orange juice and sparking water would be the tipple of choice at events and I would sternly decline any offer of a drink from the hotel bar.

By the time I arrived at the conference centre at 3pm my hands were already trembling with withdrawal; I don’t know if I was the best ambassador for the party as I as snarled at a woman from the NSPCC as she tried to invite me to a lecture on child poverty.

I decided to distract myself from my incessant thirst by taking a stroll around the conference stalls; a whole ménage of charities, public bodies and companies were offering branded sweets and lanyards in exchange for a quick chat.

Naturally I whored myself out to anyone offering some free mints, my discussions ranged from trains to sexual health, dog welfare to Turkish sovereignty.

I left the hall with a bag full of key rings and a new found appreciation for Nuclear Energy.

Needless to say by 4pm the plan had gone to pot, what I mistook for sparkling water was in fact a gin and lemonade, 5pm rolled by and by 6pm it was all over.

As I was just about to move onto my 9th event of the evening it suddenly hit me, my stomach turned and I needed to find a bathroom, as I desperately scouted around the endless corridors for a suitably deserted toilet, unfortunately the sauce got the better of me and I went for the nearest vessel…

Whilst dry heaving onto a potted rubber tree, I heard a most familiar voice from behind:

“Harper, what the hell do you think your doing!”

I turned round, still partially dry heaving to see the Hon. Member for Weaselthorpe, my boss Jim Poole M.P., glaring back at me, by his side stood Sandy, mouth open and blackberry in hand.

“Waat are yoush doin herwe, what happenshd to tha rapesheed ooille?” I tired to orate in perfect Queen’s English.

Needless to say Jim had tied up his deal early, decided to come to conference and dragged Sandy along for the ride.

Not my finest moment. I decided to call it a night.

Day 4

In the morning, nothing was working; my hands numb, head spinning and eyes glazed it took 15 minutes alone to get the left shoe on. I decided to taxi the 200m to the conference venue, the best £1.70 I’ve ever spent.

I didn’t even bother avoiding the leafleteres, I outstretched both hands and gave in, picking up as much paper as I could lay my hands on, I had been beaten, they had finally worn me down, no chance of resisting the incessant onslaught.

I entered the secure zone and piled the whole lot into a nearby recycling bin.

There was a reason for the early call and extreme effort in getting to the venue, today was the finale of conference, the final speech, the moment where we see our great leader, who throughout the whole conference had been viewed as some sort of omnipotent deity.

There was a horrifically long queue for the auditorium, I simply butted up against the wall, shut my eyes and drifted off into my own world whilst waiting for the doors to open.

Next thing I knew a young party marshal tapped me on the shoulder and pulled me out the queue… oh god it’s finally come to this, I’m finally being ejected. Before I could mutter my perfuse apologies he cut me off, “you’ll do, we need some young people at the front, the stage shot looks like a Cat Stevens concert”.

I was whisked past the enormous line of people, right to the front, through the doors and to the front row. Just in front of the podium. Needless to say I happened to catch sight of Jim and Sandy in the queue, as they glared at me I don’t think their expression had changed much from yesterday, poor dears.

In return for this prime real estate I was instructed to smile constantly, clap on queue and cheer at the conclusion. Easy enough I thought.

I don’t think I performed as expected.

The celebratory Party conference shot 2010 and I’m in the front row, eyes shut and in deep sleep through the standing ovation.

 

Well my debut on the conference scene didn’t quite pan out how I’d hoped, it wasn’t a career maker but I did make a good many new friends, if only for the kudos of being on the front of every national paper, fast asleep in front of the party leader at the most crucial moment of his whole career.

Jim is talking about banning me from conference 2011, probably not a bad idea.


Added by Harper Pepperswitch on 20th October 2010