CRRRASSSH went the bottles in Manchester early yesterday as they cascaded into a waiting skip. It was breakfast on day three of the Conservative Party conference and the long-suffering staff at the £180-a-night Midland Hotel had finished clearing away the detritus of another night’s crazed networking.
The exhausted barmen had finally locked the optics, pulled down their shutters and sloped off to bed. It had been another great night for takings - and another ignoble night for the British political elite. Today, thank goodness, the party conference season ends. David Cameron will speak this afternoon and after that we can all head home.
The level of drinking at this year’s conferences has been astonishing. I did hope that, given the state of the nation’s economy, they might rein themselves in. But at all three conferences - not just the Tories in Manchester but also Labour in Liverpool and the Lib Dems in Birmingham - the evening carousing has been beyond sybaritic.
By day they have talked of cuts. By night they have been Bacchanalian. Grotesque. Ponds, lakes, lagoons of alcohol have been consumed, while the rest of the country teeters on the brink of a double-dip recession. I have seen frontbench MPs in all three parties barely able to speak, so much have they gargled down. The organisers of one conference cocktail party had to employ thick-necked bouncers to stop gatecrashers.
How can this political elite deplore the yobbishness of the recent riots when its own members, the supposed leaders of our society, demonstrate so little self-restraint?