Activists plan ‘rave’: Conservative answer to Glastonbury, designed to provide a cool gloss to Theresa May’s party
Henry Mance, FT’s Political Correspondent writes: “Camping. Slow food. Inspirational speakers. A Pyramid stage. It could be Glastonbury, except for one feature: Tory activists . . . The festival will be invitation-only with between 150 and 200 attendees, some of whom will camp”.
Mr Freeman said he hoped the event would become an annual fixture, adding that this year’s festival would be like a “first rave, you’ll remember who you brought” – unlikely!
Organisers of a new “Conservative Ideas Festival” are hoping to revive the spirit and popular appeal of Theresa May’s party after its battering in June’s general election. The party’s membership has fallen to somewhere below 150,000 — less than one-third that of Labour’s and not far ahead of the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats.
The party has fallen behind Labour in opinion polls, while Mrs May’s personal ratings are below those of Mr Corbyn, who was once seen as unelectable.
George Freeman, the Norfolk MP who chairs Mrs May’s policy board, came up with the idea after Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn took the Glastonbury Festival by storm this summer. “Why is it just the left who have all the fun in politics?” he said after Mr Corbyn’s appearance. saying his idea for a rightwing festival “seems to have struck a chord” and that he had “some wonderful offers of help of sponsorship and venues”. He told the Financial Times this week that he had raised £25,000 for a one-day event to be held in September.
The Conservatives will also hold their annual party conference in Manchester at the start of October, charging companies £32,500 for a 6m by 6m exhibition stand. Can’t wait!
Naushaben (second left) was amazed, not only by ‘the vast array of music on offer’ (the Foo Fighters, Rag’n’Bone Man and Katy Perry to name a few), but just how much politics was ‘happening – from the sand sculpture of Theresa May attempting to break through a field of wheat to David Beckham opening social housing in Pilton. Support and backing for Jeremy Corbyn was particularly evident – displayed in a manner usually reserved for A-list celebrities.
She continues: “With the crowd taking every opportunity to break out into a rendition of ‘Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn’ and thousands of festival-goers packing out the Pyramid Stage to watch the Labour leader address them, if there were any doubts after the general election of young people’s support for Jeremy, Glastonbury quickly dispelled them.
“And a year after the vote to leave the EU, a result that I have heard had left a sombre cloud over 2016’s festival, the mood had lifted. Brexit had woken up a generation, and this time the sun was shining and as Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage, there was a sense of hope in the air”.
Agreeing with Billy Bragg that the momentum Jeremy has started is exceptional, she adds that in order for it to continue on its trajectory we have make sure that people are not just ‘buying into’ an individual but also into the values and principles:
“Corbyn’s ability to articulate these in a meaningful and sincere manner is undoubtedly a part of his appeal, but we need to ensure that those who support us (many for the first time) also understand that these are the values at the very core of the Labour Party and it is our ability to deliver as a unified movement that will bring about real change”. (Below, Corbyn calling for unity at the Glastonbury festival)
Putting the Glastonbury phenomenon into perspective Naushaben reminds readers that this festival is known for its socialist roots and the founder, Michael Eavis, is a long-time Labour supporter, having stood as a parliamentary candidate in 1997. Festival-goers tend to be progressive and liberal in their views, with swathes of young people forming the crowds – the very people whom Jeremy has brought into the fold and the very people that helped to deliver exceptional wins in places such as Canterbury and Kensington.
She continues: “We would be naïve to not also consider our decline of support in some traditional working-class heartlands. Seats such as Mansfield recently lost to the Tories, which in the 1980s was the site of many clashes between the police and miners or areas of the South-East, like Medway and Gravesham, which were Labour held from 1997-2010 but once again, have returned Tory MPS with solid majorities. Wins in such areas will be crucial to gain the additional seats — more than sixty — to form a working- majority government . . . there should be an honest appraisal of our supporter base and how we bring back into the fold our traditional voter base while continuing to appeal to the next generation. And just like our election manifesto, the challenge is to ensure that our appeal remains for the many and not the few”.
Naushaben ends: “The task itself is not an impossible one. The world of politics is in a state of flux and the Tories are failing to offer any sense of real leadership, heading a government that is about as far from ‘strong and stable’ as you can get, underpinned by a loose deal with the DUP that could prove to be deeply damaging. It is clear they have no real vision for the country other than the relentless pursuit of power. There is a genuine opportunity for Labour to take the reins and one that we are close to grasping”.