Tories and Trotskyites
There is a surprising public perception that there wouldn’t be much difference between a Conservative or Labour government, but there couldn’t be fewer similarities between the supporters of both movements and the two party conferences.
It would be hard to imagine union activists sipping on cocktails from the Knightsbridge luxury store Harvey Nichols stand at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Manchester thirsty Conservatives can enjoy an HN gin ricky.
They can also buy soft, pastel cashmere jumpers from Marks & Spencer or get a suit fitted in the market place. Cufflinks and chalices await those who visit the elite Carlton Club stall, along with limited edition portraits of icon Margaret Thatcher.
At Labour, union stands tend to dominate — reflecting their influence over the movement and the party’s reliance on their funding. The closest you can get to a Harvey Nichols cocktail by the main hall is a pint of tepid bitter from the hatch.
Beans on jacket potatoes, stewed tea and bacon buns with butter and brown sauce on sale in Brighton; fairtrade white chocolate muffins, herbal tea and organic, homemade sandwiches in Manchester.
And it doesn’t stop there. Outside the Labour party conference, radical socialists march past crying “Revolution!”, pro-Palestinian supporters picket. In Manchester, the anti-European UK Independence Party rally against the European Union and a few protest against hunting.
Of course there is some overlap but, at grassroots level, these two parties appeal to two opposite walks of British life.
While winning the middle ground will be crucial, the result of next year’s election will also rest on how successful both parties are at mobilising these very, very different breeds of voters.