We should all know that a gathering of several thousand people, released from the daily grind of the office for a week, is not the way to get any serious decisions taken or any proper business done.

The African National Congress (ANC) policy conference is essentially theatre (the management's main concern being always that it is does not degenerate into a circus): it provides a dramatic occasion for the party's rank and file to feel involved; and it gives everyone the chance to cheer and boo, to vent pent-up frustrations over the many unresolved issues of the day. There will always be enough of them to go round.

It seems hard, then, to take the event any more seriously than the slurred snapshots and gossip that follow the office party. Yet both your leader (ANC policy as clear as mud, July 2) and Steven Friedman's piece (Gap between supporters and ANC a key theme, July 2), while disagreeing on many points, try to insist that we do.

One might observe that Mr Friedman especially shows no less caution than the conference he finds fault with. If he is of the view that society needs "far more change than the policy conference seemed willing to consider", then it must be an omission not to outline what that change might be and what is required to bring it about.

Paul Whelan