Total Politics - October 2010
50 GREAT CONFERENCE QUOTES
With the season upon us again, Total Politics looks back at the best quotations from conferences over the years
Prison works” Michael Howard, Conservative conference, October 1993 Howard’s declaration became the hard-line credo for tough changes to the penal system, but was recently overthrown by his predecessor as home secretary, Ken Clarke.
The lady’s not for turning” Margaret Thatcher, Conservative conference, October 1980 Defiant in the face of picketing protesters and immense unpopularity, Thatcher showed her steel, insisting she would finish what she had started.
I’ve not got a reverse gear” Tony Blair, Labour conference, September 2003 A few years into the new Labour government, problems arose over implementing reforms. Blair faced down his opponents in a Thatcheresque manner.
“Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government”
David Steel, Liberal conference, September 1981 This enthusiastic exhortation bordered on the delusional – Steel could not know his party would take three more decades to assume power.
“ The quiet man is turning up the volume” Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative conference,
October 2003 Despite a last-ditch flail to regain political momentum, Iain Duncan Smith’s fighting spirit only showed his weakness as leader.
16 | Total Politics | September 2008
16 | Total Politics | October 2010
“Who dares wins” Michael Portillo, Conservative conference, October 1995 As Portillo confessed, the most embarrassing moment of his career was paraphrasing the SAS’s motto to describe the Tories’ defence policy.
“Please don’t applaud.
It may irritate your neighbour”
Edward Heath, Conservative conference, October 1981 Politicians don’t always receive a favourable reception. Edward Heath played on the less than ecstatic audience with this sardonic quip.
“My wife doesn’t like to have her hair blown about” John Prescott, Labour conference, September 1999 Prescott’s reply to criticism over using his Jaguar to travel 250 yards to the conference centre earned him the new moniker of ‘Two Jags’.
“Wherever I am, whatever I do, I’m with you”
Tony Blair, Labour conference, September 2006 Tony Blair’s swansong brought the Blair decade to a dramatic close, as even implacable critics in his own party realised they might miss him.
Let me say this clearly to the country – the Liberal Democrats are nobody’s poodles” Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrat conference, September 1999 After revelations that his predecessor held out vainly for a coalition with Blair, Kennedy reasserted the Liberal Democrat’s independence with verve.
I want to be prime minister” Nick Clegg, Lib Dem conference, September 2009 Nick Clegg sought to paper over the cracks of internal conference squabbles by asserted his statesmanship – not knowing he would soon become deputy PM.
Back to basics” John Major, Conservative conference, October 1993 After announcing a push for public probity, Major – and the government’s credibility – was undermined by a slew of revelations about his colleagues’ infidelities.
The end of a thousand years of history” Hugh Gaitskell, Labour conference, October 1962 With this loftily-crafted phrase, Gaitskell encapsulated his opposition to the prospect of Britain joining the European Economic Community.
There was I, waiting at the church”JimCallaghan,TUCconference, September 1978 Deep in the Winter of Discontent, Callaghan taunted those wanting a general election by singing ‘Waiting at the Church’.
September 2008 | Total Politics | 17
October 2010 | Total Politics | 17