Bursting the bubble
0630 Tuesday: The alarm on my mobile beeps. Where am I? I switch on the bedside lamp and fumble for my little lifesaver – a credit card sized bit of plastic attached to a white lanyard. There’s a picture of me – that’s promising – and the slogan “A New Direction” – accompanied by what looks like a child’s drawing of a rightward leaning oak tree.
Ah yes, I’m at the Tory conference. I’m in Bournemouth.
It’s a very odd time of year. The political broadcast media bundle all their kit on to a fleet of lorries and zig-zag round the country, this year to Brighton, Manchester and Bournemouth.
There we unpack into a series of car parks, portacabins and – I kid you not – toilets, surrounded by such tight security that it quickly seems too much trouble ever to step outside the zone.
Now some might fear there’s a danger that we – and the politicians – become a tad cut off from reality. But worry not: we counter that by sneaking out for a curry in the evening. Occasionally we even go as far as to despatch a producer to voxpop some local people in the nearest high street.
Inside the zone, we speak our own language. Here’s a brief conference glossary to aid your understanding if you’re watching, listening to or reading any of our conference coverage.
First, that word I slipped in at the beginning – LANYARDS. They dangle round our neck to hang our conference passes on. Lose this and you have to go home (tempting….) Sky cheekily bought these up as mobile advertising space at Labour, which meant all BBC journalists were the proud wearers of badges boasting “Sky – first with breaking news.”
BUBBLE: A mini studio overlooking the conference hall. Home for News 24’s James Landale for three weeks.
BUSHES: The live BBC Two conference programme used to dress its set with assorted plants and flowers, possibly even the odd bush or two. They don’t do this any more, but the name has stuck. Hence the bizarre panicked shout across the newsroom of a morning – “Is Jenny in the bubble or the bushes?”
POOL: Sadly, not for swimming. An agreement between the broadcasters for one crew to shoot an event and share the pictures with everyone.
INGEST: We have a baby server this year, shared with the other broadcasters. The process of copying our pictures into it is known as ingesting. Hence: “Paul, ingest that Cameron pool NOW.”
FRINGE: Where senior politicians go to make gaffes. Also where much of the real debate inside a party happens.
RECEPTION: Late night booze-up for party researchers and journalists, occasionally visited briefly by a politician.
That’s enough conference talk. Just one more day in the seaside sunshine before the bubble and bushes are dismantled, our last pool fringe is ingested, and our lanyards are consigned to the dustbin of the 2006 party conference season.