Lying with passion

The US vice-presidential debate, the ups and downs of Michael Gove plus all the rest of the news and

Ready to Gove-ern

“It’s not the same as the old days,” a moustachioed conference attendee adjudged. “The atmosphere in ’81, when Heath launched into Thatcher from the platform – that was electric. It’s not like that now.” Indeed it is not. Unity and suppressed smirks (grinning excessively when the markets are in freefall is indecent) were the order of the day at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

At a fringe arranged by The Times, Michael Gove compared himself to Trinny and Susannah and spoke of the necessity of the Tory makeover. Of ‘10 Days to Save the Pound’ T-shirts and anti-immigration badges, he joked “let me tell you darling, you’re sending out the wrong vibes”.

Gove, who one Labour supporter this week assured me is a “genius,” was causing a frisson among bloggers too, and not because of his sleeping arrangements when at university. The eloquent Graeme Archer noted Gove’s contribution to the Guardian’s “Tory hero” fringe , in which he put the case for Edmund Burke. He “…deserves a distinguished merit award for services to oratory, as he managed to put the case for Burke without once using the phrase 'Little Platoons,'” Archer opined.

Joining Gove on the wrong end of a Mail exposé was the former Conservative Future chairman and now Tooting candidate, Mark Clarke - a man who provokes strong reactions. Leading Tory blogger Dizzy allowed himself a moment of schadenfreude:

“What can I say, being turned over in the Sundays couldn't have happened to a nicer person. I am truly gutted for Mark who once displayed the most unbelievable arrogance and "up his own arse" attitude towards me and a couple of others.”

Long-time readers of Dizzy will recall that he has a history of animosity towards Clarke. Elsewhere, Chris Mounsey ventured that “…he will fit in nicely with all of the other hypocritical, deceitful bastards in the House of Commons”.

Conservative conference doesn’t have delegates, its members don’t vote on proposals from the leadership – they just applaud them. And so it was when Osborne wowed the party with his council tax freeze plans. The ThunderDragon wrote:

“It puts control in the hands of local councils who can decide whether or not they will choose to take part. If they make the wrong choice, they will face the wrath of their electorate when they next get a chance to vote.”

Others, like The Right Student were more equivocal:

“I do have a concern, however. It is all well and good to freeze Council Tax for two years, but what happens then? Do we go back to inflation busting rises?”

Hopi Sen questioned how it would impact on Boris’ plans for London.

Finally, the Conservative party itself has tried to get it on the citizen journalism revolution by launching its own Blue Blog. Move along, nothing to see here.

What have we learned this week?

In the week that Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr the Brass Crescent Awards open nominations to find the best Muslim bloggers. Last year’s winner, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, also writes on faith and politics at Comment is Free. Eid Mubarak to all Muslim bloggers, and to the Jewish blogosphere - Shana tova u'metukah.

Across the Pond

After a string of hopeless media performances, many anticipated that Sarah Palin would sink McCain’s hope in yesterday’s vice presidential debate. But Clive Crook felt that, though she lost, Palin made a decent fist of her tussle with Biden:

“Whatever the reason--her sense of occasion, a change of coaching staff, who knows?--she did well enough tonight to lift the campaign's head back above water.”

Predictably, Democrat bloggers universally gave the debate to Biden. Republicans were more mixed – with Mark Levin on the right-wing NationalReview opting to instead go after her opponent:

“…Biden’s “gravitas” is derived almost entirely from the fact that he can lie with absolute passion and conviction,” he claimed.

Videos of the Week

“Our house, didn't work out like we planned/ Our house, price has dropped by fifty grand,” the Spitting Image crew sang during the 1989 house price crash. If only satire was up to that today.

Quote of the Week

“It is instructive that today we also face many of the problems we faced in the months leading up to Thatcher's 1979 election victory.”

Tony Sharp enthusiastically buys into the wildly popular new Cameron/Thatcher narrative.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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