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Where have all the Tories gone?

Harold Wilson once asked the question: "Where have all the Tories gone?"
His answer then, back in 1974, was: "Off to the City, every one."
The same question could be asked here at this Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.Where have they gone? Not the City this time.I have been coming to Tory conferences since the mid-1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp, and I have never seen the main hall so empty.It was full at the start on day one, for the speeches of party chairman Brandon Lewis and the ebullient Digby Jones, who gave a rumbustious after dinner-style speech, including his "irrelevance and seriously offensive" attack on Boris Johnson.

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Theresa May and her husband Philip were in the hall then, sitting a few rows back among the activists, in the way that David Cameron used to when he was leader.But when the PM and Philip left the hall after Digby Jones' speech, so did many of the audience, leaving it barely half full for the speeches of Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt.Day two was much worse. And the empty seats reached a nadir for the late-afternoon speech of the new Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright.Now admittedly it was the graveyard slot at the end of the day, but there were fewer than 200 in the 2,262-seat Symphony Hall in Birmingham's International Convention Centre.Earlier, during Philip Hammond's big speech on the economy just before lunch, there were also big gaps of empty seats in the hall.
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Jacob Rees-Mogg attended a Brexit fringe event
Labour's deputy leader, the Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson, tweeted mischievously: "I got a bigger audience for my conference speech than Jeremy Wright - and I didn't even do a conference speech."Mr Watson can feel entitled to mock. At Labour's conference in Liverpool last week the vast hall was packed throughout and at times delegates were being turned away because it was full.The contrast doesn't end there. At Labour's conference there were passionate debates - on re-selection of MPs and Brexit, for example - and there were fiery speeches from the floor.That was a deliberate policy: more speeches by activists from the floor and fewer by MPs and shadow ministers from the platform.

Where have all the Tories gone?

The World Transformed: How Momentum festival is challenging for the 'mainstream' Labour conference

There was also a Momentum conference, The World Transformed, going on at the same time elsewhere in Liverpool, with speeches by leading figures such as John McDonnell and senior union leaders. That event was packed and passionate too.
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