No, they did not serve tea; they did not serve cucumber sandwiches or buns or scones. No tea was dumped into the Channel. There were no hand-made cool signs, as an American correspondent put it; there were no signs or placards at all. In fact, it was, as the slightly amateurish pictures show, an extremely well attended fringe meeting with an enthusiastic audience, most of whom had come running from other meetings, main or fringe, that a party conference provides. Most of them were going on to other meetings or dinners.
As it happens, I am a veteran of packed fringe meetings. There were the early European Foundation meetings, at one of which every fire regulation was broken and the Head of the Commission’s London office, having unwisely left the room, could not be allowed back in as there was quite literally not a square inch of space. “Health and safety” we told him with big grins on our faces and delegates who also could not get in laughed. The Conservatives have always seen themselves as somewhat rebellious as far as the EU is concerned – they laugh at the discomfiture of officials.
Then there were all the Save Britain’s Fish meetings at both Labour and Conservative conferences where the full horror of the Common Fisheries Policy was carefully analyzed and dissected to packed rooms. And what good came of it all? We still have the CFP with successive governments whining about the reform that they are working on. The only sensible policy the Conservatives ever had, was discarded by the Boy-King as soon as he became the leader.
Today’s event proved something unexpected, however. It seems my history teachers who were told to slant everything towards a Marxist interpretation were actually right: the British establishment does have an uncanny ability to mould and remould itself, to include anybody who might challenge them and to co-opt potential oppositions. We have seen this with the blogosphere, that has been converted into the clogosphere plus a few supporting players with those of us who do not want to be inside the tent ever diminishing in importance. Now we see it with a potential tea party movement. Before it could even start, it was pre-empted by a fringe meeting at a Conservative Party conference, addressed by a Conservative politician and presided over by another Conservative politician, Roger Helmer MEP.
The rest is posted on Your Freedom and Ours with a couple of pictures I took.