There’s always plenty of stimulating debate to entice the politicos among us. There are the fringe meetings galore at which earnest activists, and party dinosaurs you assumed were fossilised long ago, are wheeled out to peddle some off-the-wall ideas before being shut up in the attic for another year.
And there are the big keynote speeches, in which party leaders and their front-bench horrors throw dignity to the wind and aim shamelessly vote-grabbing messages at what they hope is a gullible electorate.
Worst of all, they invariably hurl the most faecal of crap jokes in the faces of their fawning audience, all of whom dutifully react as though the speaker were a cross between Paul Whitehouse and Catherine Tate.
This is the point at which I usually fantasise about hiring a bus and driving the whole lot up to Beachy Head myself, only to be frustrated because there’s not enough room on board for smirking BBC political editor Nick Robinson.
Well we’ve had all three major party conferences now, and I can safely say that, this year, my vote goes to David Cameron and his modern Conservatives. For my money, they have the edge on both Gordon Brown and Menzies Campbell when it comes to spewing forth the most half-baked vote-grabbing nonsense I’ve heard for, oh, a year or so. It’s been like the electoral equivalent of Dale’s Supermarket Sweep.
Who’s not going to like the proposal to cut stamp duty for first-time buyers? Who’s not going to be delighted to see inheritance tax imposed only on millionaires? But where’s the money coming from to pay for it? Why, from those thieving tax cheats who try to bypass the Treasury by registering for tax overseas. Oh, and they’re going to scrap home information packs. It’s win-win-win, er, win with the Conservatives.
Mr Cameron is understood to be a keen advocate of renewable energy and sometimes rides a bike. Tory dinosaur John Gummer was even heard to say this week that the Tories invented green politics. What a turn-up!
But how do they feel about the latest plan to build a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary?
This idea has been kicking around for many years and every now and then somebody decides to have another stab at it. I assume renewable energy buffs look at all that lovely water sloshing in and out of the Bristol Channel twice a day and can’t resist the idea of reviving the scheme.
Now they’re at it again, striking while the environmental iron is hot and the political parties are desperate to reduce their carbon footprints.
This week, the Sustainable Development Commission gave a cautious welcome to the latest proposal to build a tidal barrage.
‘Business and enterprise secretary John Hutton’ (no, I haven’t got a clue either) was very excited when he announced a new study on the proposal. Hardly surprising, since if it delivered what its proposers suggest, it would come in very handy for meeting certain environmental commitments.
The Government reckons the 16 km-long barrage, which would contain 200 turbines, could generate up to 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity requirement. It would also create 35,000 construction jobs and up to 40,000 permanent jobs.
It’s a bit like David Cameron’s inheritance tax pledge: a stonking vote-winner if ever I heard one. Oh, I nearly forgot – it could be generating power within 11 years, says Mr Hutton. Oh, come now, that’s just going too far.