A break in the Lakes - before the general election countdown

Sir Keir Starmer spoke at the Labour party conference. Credit: PA

It was on a walking holiday in Snowdonia when Theresa May fatefully decided to call the snap election of 2017.

Sir Keir Starmer will not get to choose when the next general election will be - but the break in the Lakes this summer that he described in his conference speech may be the last chance he has for a holiday before that election comes around.

It has to be held by January 2025, and spring or autumn 2024 are the best bets for when Rishi Sunak will decide to go to the country.

The opinion polls suggest Sir Keir will be pretty busy in Downing Street after that.

This autumn's party conferences are likely to have been the last before the election, and the countdown is now well and truly underway.

The most memorable moment of conference season was the Labour leader being covered in glitter by a protester in Liverpool.

Aside from security concerns, I think his advisers will be pretty pleased with how it turned out.

For many who pay little attention to politics, it may well be the moment they were introduced to Starmer, literally rolling up his sleeves and carrying on.

His story about visiting the Lake District was part of trying to build up his personal story.

He described sitting in a pub near Windermere - "it was calm, it was beautiful, the Lake District never lets you down."

"I went there every year as a child with my family and, although she struggled so much to walk, my mum loved the Lakes, so it was really special to share it with my kids."

He linked it to saying that the cost-of-living crisis has meant many people have had to go without things like holidays, trying to portray himself as understanding ordinary people's concerns.

Aside from that holiday story, though, there wasn't much of substance from Starmer that felt particularly specific to our region.

The most directly relevant policy announcements came from Conservative party conference in Manchester.

The Prime Minister confirmed the high speed rail line HS2 would not reach that northern city, but he'd spend the money saved on other transport projects, including improvements to the Cumbrian coast railway line, and the A75 and A77 in the South West of Scotland.

But there are a lot of questions about how, when and indeed whether those upgrades are going to be delivered, particularly after Sunak admitted the list of projects announced around the country was "illustrative."

Unsurprisingly, Tory conference featured a fair amount of back-biting, though not the sheer chaos of last year, during Liz Truss' short reign.

The 2019 election result means that all but one of our region's eight MPs are Conservatives, though the political map is being redrawn after a national review of constituency boundaries.

Windermere will remain within Westmorland & Lonsdale, not a place where Labour are likely to win, despite Starmer's shout-out.

Tim Farron will be defending the South Lakes seat for the Liberal Democrats, and he provided probably the most dramatic moment of their conference, as things got heated over the party's policy on housebuilding targets.

Otherwise, Lib Dem conference was marked by amusing photo opportunities by the seaside in Bournemouth, as the party keep trying to get themselves noticed.

Their candidate for the new constituency of Penrith & Solway (created from much of the Workington and Penrith & The Border seats) is talking up her chances, but it was not mentioned as a prime target at a party election briefing.

Labour have also already picked their candidates for Carlisle, and the new constituency of Whitehaven & Workington (formed from most of the current Copeland seat).

You'd think those are the kind of places they do need to win if they are to get back into power.

The Scottish Labour reception was particularly upbeat, after their by-election win in Rutherglen & Hamilton West last week.

Labour are though a long way behind in the South of Scotland, where the constituencies are remaining pretty much unchanged.

The SNP conference starts this weekend in Aberdeen, with my Representing Border colleagues on duty.

It's time for some rest for me - a busy and no doubt dramatic year in politics lies ahead.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...