Thursday, 4 October 2007

Conservative Conference 2007 - Round up.

Sunday. I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that those heading up to Blackpool last week for the Conservative conference were very apprehensive. We were reportedly 11 points behind Labour in the polls and the media seemed sure that the conference would become a blood bath of infighting between the old and the new. As it happened this turned out to be as far from the truth as you could possibly get. From day one, following William Hague's conference opening speech, the oppressive atmosphere started to dissipate and a feeling of hope seeped through the attendees. William said:

We have strong leadership, clear direction, and policies our country needs. So let us make the most of all of that, and so conduct ourselves this week that people can see the relish, the confidence and the optimism with which we approach our task. Let this week be a reminder never to underestimate the Conservative Party, and a demonstration of how we can serve a country where it is time for change. It's time for change. And let it now begin. (Full Speech).

That was matched by more of the same kind of upbeat optimism and drive from speakers such as: Boris Johnson, Caroline Spelman, Lord Heseltine and via live satellite guest speaker Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Iain dale the day closed with beginnings of a buzz in the air.

Monday morning saw the conference gather, wondering if things could continue in the same vein as Sunday. They weren't disappointed, it was only to get better. There were great speeches from Chris Grayling, Alan Duncan, Grant Shapps, Andrew Lansley and David Willetts, but the real highlight of the day came from George Osborne's inspirational speech on Aspiration. George said:

Anyone who buys their first home for under £250,000 will pay no stamp duty. We will take 200,000 people a year out of stamp duty altogether; that's one million people over a Parliament; And our message to the family working long hours, saving every spare pound to afford their first home is this:

Your dream is our dream too.

Your aspiration is our aspiration.

We will get you out of tax and into your home.

For we are on your side.

Tuesday should have started on a high, but Gordon Brown did something that I consider (as an ex-serviceman) inexcusable. Going to Iraq the day before David Cameron's closing speech to announce troop reductions was the lowest form of political cynicism I have seen. The fact that he spun the figures as usual, only makes this betrayal of our forces worse. Luckily this stunt was seen for what it was by the media and it backfired on Brown. I think the justified anger felt by the conservatives that were due to speak that day only steeled their resolve.

You can read all of Tuesday's speeches by clicking HERE. But I want to concentrate on the two that stood out for me:

First of all is this from David Davis, talking about how we can mend our broken society:

Gordon Brown can't talk about zero tolerance policing. When half the crime reported isn't investigated….When it takes ten hours to process an arrest. When police spend more time filling forms than on the streets. But there is one form that would cut crime with the tick of a box. A P45 for a redundant Government that has failed in its first duty to protect the public.

When I'm Home Secretary, the police will reclaim the streets. They will break up the gangs. They will enforce zero-tolerance of all crime. And they will be held accountable to local people for their performance, street by street, block by block and house by house. It's a policy that's tried. It's tested. It works. The street crime plaguing New York in the 1980s was thought by many commentators to be inevitable. But the New York Police Department adopted a zero-tolerance approach to crime and cut it by 75%. Some people will tell you it can't be done here. I say nonsense.

Then came Dr Liam Fox who told us what we were going to do to honour our Armed Forces:

A few months ago I met a young man in a hospital who had just returned from Afghanistan with horrific injuries. As a doctor I marvelled at his physical bravery. But there was more than that. He will never be the fit, active sportsman he once was. He will face a life of physical disability and will never get back what he has lost. But what I really marvelled at was his optimism, his determination and his lack of anger. I was only doing my job, he said.

I would like to see them properly welcomed home when they return from active service. In the United States they return as heroes and we should be ashamed they do not get the same treatment here. I am therefore delighted that my own Conservative local authority, North Somerset, will be the first to make local amenities such as sports centres and swimming pools available free to serving members of the Armed Forces and their families. It's a small gesture. I hope that others will follow this lead.

Tuesday night saw an elated and exceedingly optimistic Conservative party. We had overcome Brown's dirty trick and the momentum was growing towards David Cameron's eagerly awaited closing speech.

Wednesday morning and the party was holding its collective breath. The televised news saw David taking a stroll with his Wife along the front. He answered a few questions put to him and seemed as cool as a cucumber. Things were looking good.

I don't think anyone could have predicted what happened that afternoon. David Cameron stood in front of the conference and the nation without a script and spoke with an eloquence and a vision that I have seldom seen from a politician:

You know people in this country after 10 years of Labour really despair that they can get the sort of change they want. They don't believe it is possible any more and we've got to inspire them, we've got to say to them, it doesn't have to be like this. You don't have to put up with this, you can get it if you really want it, we can get a great NHS, if we make doctors answerable to patients and not to politicians. We can get great schools if we break open the state monopoly and allow new schools in and insist on high standards. We can get safer streets if we strengthen our families and get the police onto our streets, we can get it if we really want it. That's what we've got to do. So, Mr Brown, what's it going to be? Why don't you go ahead and call that election? Let the people pass judgement on 10 years of broken promises, let people decide who's really making the arguments about the future of our country. Let people decide who can make the changes that we really need in our country. Call that election. We will fight. Britain will win."

The speech was over, the conference was over, and conservatives from all over the country filed out of the venue with a fire and a belief: If an election was to be called, we would give Brown a damn good run for his money.

(A special mention must go to Iain Duncan Smith who was inspirational).


Lord Higham-Johnson said...

Two great quotes from DD and Liam Fox - that's true leadership.

Daily Referendum said...

Come on James,

Cameron was good, wasn't he?