This week the Conservative MP George Freeman suggested a Conservative Ideas Festival as a response to Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity at Glastonbury, asking ‘why is it the left who have all the fun in politics?’
The fact that his festival will be a one-day event limited to only 200 Tory activists says it all about his attempts at fun. Still, it’s an interesting question.
Perhaps the answer is as simple as fun being part of our culture, compared to the cold, stuffy and exclusive culture of the Tory party. You can’t manufacture creativity, excitement or celebration from an ideology that has made its success from excluding people from the political decisions that shape their daily lives. You can get rich that way, but you can’t buy fun.
The left has more fun because of its emphasis on values like community and solidarity, as opposed to the Tories’ deference to authority and emphasis on social hierarchy. It is built from a diverse range of people, sharing their skills and ideas. It not only relies on this diversity to shape its vision for the future, the very process of working together across boundaries builds the connections that make us stronger.
An invitation-only event organised by ex management consultants is worlds away from any festival worth the time of day. A ‘festival’ held at a secret location, run by a descendent of a Victorian prime minister who’s gone from lobbyist to venture capitalist to Tory MP, will have no social or cultural relevance.
Describing the event as ‘a cross between Hay-on-Wye and the Latitude Festival’ may seem like a half-clever bit of branding, but there is no mention of arts, music or culture from Freeman.
Perhaps he is simply planning an event to debate or showcase Conservative ideas. But what is the point of that in a party with zero internal democracy, where policies and ideas are decided in Westminster and even most of the Tory cabinet didn’t get a look in to the manifesto? Even if the ideas paraded did gather some significance within the Conservative Party, who else would be attracted to a festival based on debating ideas for how to make people demonstrably worse off?
Freeman’s festival is another display of the Conservatives’ clutching at straws after their election disappointment and Labour’s historic turnaround. Following on from the possibility of a Tory Momentum (Tormentum?) Freeman’s festival plan seems to be a pale imitation of Momentum’s festival The World Transformed.
Here at The World Transformed, following the success of our first event last year, we are organising four days of culture, parties and talks to engage with the Labour grassroots and build the ideas that are driving our movement to success.
The World Transformed itself, like so many of the campaigns and projects that drive the Corbyn movement, is borne out of a politics that occurs beyond the corridors of Westminster – at parties, in community centres, music venues, pubs and public meetings.
Unlike the Conservative Ideas Festival, The World Transformed 2017 will be open to the entire public, hosted across seven venues in the heart of Brighton and will be free to attend. We are building a festival with accessibility and inclusivity at its heart, diametrically opposed to the Conservatives’ stale cliquism.
The World Transformed is from 23-26 September in Brighton.