For the first time in years, I will not be attending the Conservative Party Conference. Not only is it impossible to find reasonably priced accommodation anywhere near Birmingham, but everything's been booked for months in advance.
So I felt some small consolation from reading the ConservativeHome blog site, as it seems it's not only me that's found it impossible. According to the "Accommodation in Birmingham" posting several people have already complained to the site about the scarcity and price of accommodation in our second city. It's a shame - I can understand why the party would want to move the conference around, and of course Blackpool wasn't perfect, but as least there were plenty of hotels and boarding houses in all price ranges.
I was really lucky - I found a self-catering flatlet on the opposite corner to the back door of the Winter Gardens. Fernleigh Holiday Apartments cost the princely sum of £110 for four days, and although I had to take my own food and towels (it was fully self-catering) it was perfect as a place to sleep when returning in the early hours after parties and receptions.
So where's the equivalent of Fernleigh in Birmingham? With bed and breakfast around £100 a night, this choice of location seems set to be excluding and marginalising the very people who have worked unstintingly through the wilderness years to bring the party back on track. Like my mother-in-law, who at seventy five ran coffee mornings, baked cakes and manned jumble sale stalls to raise money for the party. Her one reward was the charabang pilgrimage each year to Blackpool or Bournemouth with scores of fellow helpers. She hasn't been for years. She simply can't afford it anymore.
Apparently the conference will alternate between Birmingham and Manchester for the next few years. Another comment on Conservativehome suggests that whilst Birmingham quoted him £150 a night with a four night minimum, Manchester for next year has quoted £270 a night.
So what about the party faithful? Will there be a 'cheap conference' for them?