Conference season kicked off last week with the Liberal Democrats gathering in Bournemouth, now Labour is meeting along the coast in Brighton, and the Conservatives are off to Manchester next week. All told it’s three weeks of intense politicking, feverishness and over-excitement. If that is not enough for you, in Scotland there is the added excitement of the SNP conference, and if you are feeling particularly strong you could have attended the TUC annual get together earlier this month, also in Brighton.

Party conferences have been the scenes of great political drama. Labour conferences in particular have provided high drama and meaningful change – Neil Kinnock challenging the hard left, John Prescott’s speech in support of John Smith’s party reforms. Hugh Gaitskell, Dennis Healy, and Tony Blair have all delivered notable conference speeches. Conservative Party conferences have also witnessed great moments – Margaret Thatcher coming to the hall the morning after the IRA detonated a bomb under her, Lord Hailsham literally ringing in change, Winston Churchill testing his ability to carry on in office following his stroke by seeing if he could stand and deliver his leader’s speech, William Hague corralling John Major, Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher onto the same platform at the same time at his first conference as leader, David Cameron snatching the leadership from under the noses of more experienced colleagues by his noteless daytime TV host style performance. Such moments, though, are increasingly rare.

The modern party conference is an increasingly sterile, ordered and controlled affair. Journalists are penned up in windowless rooms behind the main stage,  fed drafts of speeches with the warning Check Against Delivery in large bold type at the top by anxious political aides. On stage Ministers will deliver speeches that have been vetted and approved by the Leader’s office. Much effort and energy will have been devoted to trying to conjure up some eye-catching initiative or policy in the weeks in the run-up to the conference.

On most days the queues are so long to get into the conference that once you are in you stay there. This heightens the ‘bubble effect’ – what goes on inside the bubble bares little resemblance to what you see on the 10 pm news or read about in your paper. Gone are the days when most frontbenchers would wonder about and talk to party members. Now in highly controlled public appearances on their way to a fringe event or a tour of the commercial stands, senior politicians will find themselves pursued by journalists and run the now familiar gauntlet of selfies and Twitter sightings.

For the Leader, the conference has become a particular ordeal. Where once upon a time the Leader would have made one appearance at the end of the week – summing it all up and informing their followers of their view, now the Leader as often as not has to make two or three appearances in the main hall, and a huge number of smaller appearances at events and gatherings. By the end of the week, as often as not, they are pole-axed.

It is difficult to say whether these annual events are worthwhile. They ought to be. They are certainly expensive to attend for an ordinary party member once travel and hotel bills are added to the cost of a conference pass – but people do still come. It is good that our political leaders are subjected to the ordeal of a big speech in a big hall – few of them these days can attract a sizeable hall filling audience, with Jeremy Corbyn being a notable exception. But the Party conference is not what it once was. Few senior politicians can deliver a really good speech. A conference speech could still excite, it could still shape the political landscape. Theresa May could recast her leadership and set out a vital and exciting vision for the future of her Party and the country, but who cares whether she does or not.