Ahhhh, Conference Season is upon us. That annual dash of showhands and illusion. That nod to the equally feared and reviled "grassroots"
Yesterday, I met some very nice Lib Dems at a fringe event on Adult Social Care. Delusional, trapped Lib Dems - "There is No Al-ter-na-tive", "We stab-il-ised Int-erest Rates", "We're ma-king things less bad" - kindly automatons who don't believe a word they're saying. A grassroots totally detached from their leadership. A party almost totally at odds with the direction they are taking. But conference does it's job well. Nothing is more important than a show of unity. Dissension is carefully managed. The Lib Dems will stay in this loveless marriage because for them, there really IS No Alternative.
Like a comic book version of politics, conference bears no relation to what is really happening, or indeed what will happen once the backdrops have been folded up and put away, once the lights have dimmed and the veneer of inclusivity and democracy have faded for another year.
Cameron, The Joker, will ooze sociopathic idiocy for a week in Birmingham. It may just be that some plebs will have to be admitted and tolerated, but the champagne swilling Baddies will pepper the news with snobby utterances and outrageous put-downs. There will be a Theresa May cat incident or a "Toxic Tories" own goal or two. Beyond the secure zone we will shake our heads and agree that they are unfit to govern.
The words of the Joker will chill us all
"Madness is the emergency exit, you can just step outside and just close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away......forever"
But what is left?? So the conversation always goes. We have rejected the sociopaths, despaired of the automatons, but who will take their place? What is The Alternative?
Yet again, the country answers as one : There is No Alternative.
Ed Miliband has nailed Clark Kent, got him down to a tee. But Clark needs to find his underpants - and quick. OK, I'm mixing my comic book metaphors, but Clark can't defeat the Joker!!! He can't even face the automatons. He can't philosophise his way out of this mess.
In a whirl of decision, Labour Conference needs to give us Superman. We need a hero, someone we can believe in. We need the impossible to become possible, and we need the geeky Kent to astonish us all.
We need direction, a belief that if entrusted with saving the nation, Labour are up to the job. They need to give us Kryptonite, not philosophy. A great superhero can make the impossible possible, can find answers when others see only problems. They need total belief and a touch of magic.
Clark Kent is racked by indecision and caution, Superman has no such doubts.
Superheroes don't win by default. They don't sit back and wait for the Joker to burn himself out. They don't back off. They don't dither.
They see a disaster and they know what they have to do to make it better.
They become the Alternative.