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The most vacuous and wasteful spectacle of the year is at last over. But before getting on to the party conference season I want to acknowledge the end of Anthony Gormley's fourth plinth display in Trafalgar Square. I don't know how many readers saw people take up vacant statue space on the fourth plinth. The rolling hour-long stints were filmed and screened live on the web.

In the square where Nelson, Havelock and Napier are commemorated, members of the public high on self-promotion strutted a vacant hour on the vacant plinth: a sort of X Factor for the less gifted.

The result was like a mummers' play of modern Britain. Want of meaning met, as so often, want of attention. Bowing to the god of health and safety, the plinth had a precautionary layer of netting. So even the one aspect that might have redeemed the exercise — the promise of exhibitionists losing their footing and plunging to the ground — was taken from us.

Some exhibitionists just stood there. Others wandered aimlessly as if surprised to find themselves at such a pass. Others tried to shout a message. Some were coherent. A predictable number decided to stand naked, catching a chill as well as column inches.

On one evening in September, a man was beaten to death in the square after tackling some youths who had been yelling homophobic abuse at him. The CCTV cameras covering the square could not capture good enough likenesses of the yobs who kicked and punched him to the ground. But the cameras a few yards away focusing on the fourth plinth for the live internet transmission carried every detail of the individual on the plinth, loitering, listless, pointless and presumably unaware of the savagery taking place just beyond the glare of the lights.

Which brings me to the party conference season.

I knew I loathed party conferences before even going to one. Last year, I accepted invitations to speak on the fringe of the Conservative conference. This year, I was on something like the fringe of the fringe. Next year, I anticipate being put in a different city altogether.

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