Conservative Party Conference 2018. Report by Peter Boulton.
One word, ‘Opportunity’ set the scene for this year’s party conference. Tom Spiller, President of the National Conservative Convention welcomed delegates and was eager to inform us that twenty percent of the six thousand attendees were under the age of twenty-five. And now there is record number of young people who are members. There was no Face Book when fresh faced Tom joined the party. Some areas of campaigning hadn’t changed since the days of Churchill. If we hadn’t had an update in the art of campaigning in the last two years we were definitely falling behind.
Party Chairman, The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP reminded conference of Theresa May’s words on the steps of Number 10. ‘How far you go in life isn’t determined by what you were born with but how hard you’re prepared to work’. The Conservative Party is the only party to have had two female Prime Ministers, the first female Muslim minister, the first female Lord Chancellor and is the oldest political party in the world. Therefore, with Labour Party’s misogynistic ideas we must take the fight to Labour.
In addressing conference, former CBI Chief Sir Digby Jones announced he had never belonged to a political party in his life. It didn’t prevent him from passing on a message to Labour’s John Macdonald saying there was nothing wrong with making money. If it wasn’t for business there would be no public sector. Although he voted for Brexit he would agree to another referendum providing he could have the best of seven! We buy more cars from Germany than USA and China together and therefore we need to fish in a pond of the whole world. He complimented the Prime Minister for telling the EU she expected the same respect as she afforded the EU. He urged us to come together and understand how it’s going to work and to stop navel gazing and to unify the party, warning us there was a far greater threat than Brexit coming. Apparently, he thought what Jeremy Corbyn is to wealth creation is what Diane Abbot is to mathematics.
West Midland’s Mayor, Andy Street reminded us that the weapon’s system for the F35B Lightning, the world’s first jet to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and short take-off and landing capability comes from Birmingham, so Donald Tusk look out!
Co- Chairman of the European Conservatives in the European Parliament Syed Kamall, MEP believed we can emerge from Brexit to build a truly remarkable Global Britain.
The RT Hon Liam Fox, MP Secretary of State for International Trade announced exports being at a record high. The UK has the potential to be a 21stcentury exporting superpower. Not only is London the world’s number one metropolitan area for inward investment but the Manchester/Liverpool conurbation and Birmingham have now both joined London in the world’s top twenty. Global investors really fear a Corbyn Labour Government that would steal their investments and call it nationalisation.
The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt, MP Secretary of State for International Development referred to the appearance of the world falling apart when we watch the news or scroll through social media. She wanted to talk about those things and those people that pull the world together. Heroic Britons who are changing the world for the better, dedicating their lives and sometimes risking their lives to save others. The conference proudly welcomed the following three people to the stage.
Theo Clarke, Founder and CEO of the Coalition for Global Prosperity having 30 million volunteers each month; has helped 11.4 million children receive improved education; has seen £30 million raised by the British Public for Rwandan women.
Dominic McVey, a British entrepreneur from London who started his own business at the age of 13, importing micro – scooters from USA and became a millionaire by age 15. Now at the age of 33 he employs 20,000 people and focuses on breaking poverty in Ethiopia and beyond.
Eve Conway, the new President of Rotary International spoke about eradicating polio and reminded us the UK Government is the second largest donor outside of the USA to prevent polio. And now there have only been 18 cases of polio worldwide since 1988 with the last case in the UK occurring naturally in 1984.
The RT Hon Gavin Williamson, MP Secretary of State for Defence was proud to announce that one of eight of the Type 26 global combat ships was to be named HMS Birmingham even though Birmingham is 75 miles from the sea! As Conservatives, we all believe that we should care for everyone in society, especially the most vulnerable. He was therefore pleased to announce a new support network for veterans. Thanks to the Conservatives in Government there are now 170 more cadet units and 43,000 cadets in schools which he wants to increase to 60,000. This investment in cadets is an investment of the future of our young people. With 10,0000 personnel on 30 operations stationed in 23 countries and over 20,000 people held at High Readiness, we are a leader in NATO. In the 1980’s it was Margaret Thatcher who ignited the flame of freedom, liberty and hope across Eastern Europe and it’s our duty to ensure that flame continues to burn. Today, one of the greatest threats we face is Russia and it is increasing their military presence beyond Ukraine in the Arctic and High North.
The RT Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs referred briefly to his ‘impressive’ language skills on his recent visit to China! For the last six years you’ve heard him speak as Health Secretary, one of the more demanding jobs in Cabinet. However, you decided not to let him off the hook by giving him the small matter of Brexit as Foreign Secretary. Of course, in the NHS all this talk of cakes, cherries and eating them as a contributory factor to obesity would have been banned. However, it was Brexit he wanted to talk about to Conference. He reflected on his term as the longest serving Health Secretary and then looked up the shortest serving Foreign Secretary who was not actually John Major but Earl Temple who in 1783 was there for just four days. Now in Jeremy Hunt’s first four days he met Angela Merkel and President Trump. He soon realised that meeting world leaders abroad is peanuts compared to the diplomacy needed at home when you call your Chines wife Japanese. The lesson from history is clear: If you turn the EU club into a prison the desire to get out won’t diminish it will grow, and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape. We understand the EU wants to protect itself but if the only way to deal with the UK leaving is to try to force its break up as someone more distinguished than he once said, the answer is ‘No No No.’ We should never mistake British politeness for British weakness. Punishing Britain for Brexit is dealing with the symptoms of the problem and not the cause which is the failure of political elite across Europe – including people like Jeremy Hunt in Britain – to deal with people’s concerns about migration. That is the heart of the problem and also the solution if you’re worried about the EU’s future. Dr Henry Kissinger recently told him he had refused to write an article supporting ‘remain’ in the referendum campaign. This was because America and the world needed an independent British voice and without Brexit he worried there wouldn’t be one.
Fortunately, I had preselected a list of interesting Fringe events enabling me to move swiftly at the end of the sessions in the Symphony Hall. The first one of the evening, was Living Within Our Means: An Agenda for Public Spending Savings, Presented by the Rt Hon Liz Truss, MP Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I heard how the government was designed for the way we were and not for the way after Brexit. Consideration was being given to increasing the speed limit from 70mph to 80mph and the need to build more houses. There was a need to reshape the way government does things. Welfare reform had helped to achieve the lowest unemployment rates since 1975. Departments certainly needed to review their spending and she would love to see tax cuts. The economy is fundamentally sound and we should make sure Britain is fit for the 22ndcentury. She wondered if people really believe in what Corbyn is offering and we should sell the idea, the future will be better than the past. Whilst in support of devolution and unitary authorities there was a need for simplification. Productivity within the NHS had to improve and the fraudulent listing of patients by some GPs required sorting. It was recognized there was a need for more flexibility of public sector pensions, better interaction between the courts, prisons and the probation service; too many courts were closing and the CPS were not as active.
Since I had missed our great Scottish Leader the Rt Hon Ruth Davidson, MSP at last year’s fringe events I felt it incumbent upon me to visit the Scottish & Unionist Party Reception. I was just in time to witness the leader introducing her Deputy, Jackson Carlaw who will continue during her forthcoming maternity leave.
From here it was time to meet up with Jackie Pattison to drop in on the Conservative Voice Drinks Reception in the Castle Fine Art Gallery to listen to the Rt Hon Liam Fox, MP Secretary of State for International Trade.
These events are all about pace and so our last venue of the evening was the enormously popular North-West Reception. It’s in these crowded affairs where one witnesses’ colleagues boogieing the night away to the heady sound of many old favourites.
Alas, it was after midnight and I still hadn’t checked in properly at the hotel. I had been prompted to return to the same hotel year on year having first seen it had been suitable for the Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin. And whilst I received a warm friendly welcome from the receptionist it wasn’t quite enough to afford me a light in my room. After various trips, back and forth to reception accompanied by the in-house handy man I was finally allocated an alternative room and retired around 2 am.
Monday morning’s theme An Economy That Works for Everyone began with the Rt Hon Esther McVey, MP Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. She welcomed Conference to Birmingham, a city where employment has increased by over 67,000 in 8 years. She of course is from Liverpool, another great city where, Derek Hatton has just been accepted back into the Labour Party- after 33 years – inspired to return by Corbyn’s far left Socialist which now makes up Labour Party Policy. Momentum is the modern-day Militant, and remember there are 3 M’s in Momentum…Militant, Militant, Militant. This country with Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott at the helm would be a political nightmare. The Department for Work and Pensions has helped 3.3 million more people into work since 2010. The Department spends £180 billion a year –equivalent to the whole economy of a country the size of Portugal. It sees around 80,000 people a day in job centres. It makes 12 million payments a week for pensions, welfare, childcare and more and relies upon 78,000 staff. In stark contrast, since 2010 they have added on average 1000 more jobs each and every day with the vast majority are full-time permeant roles. There have been more new jobs in the UK since 2010, than France, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Norway combined. There is now a new national partnership with Citizens Advice to deliver Universal Support across the UK, worth £39 million form 2019. This will help the most vulnerable get timely access to Universal credit, providing budgeting advise and developing their digital skills. As a Barnardo’s Child, she is aware over the years Barnardo’s has transformed the lives of millions of children and families across the UK. As Conservatives, we are compassionate and care about the vulnerable society and how to support them. We are providing certainty in retirement through the state pension, which has increased by £145 per pensioner since 2010. In sharp contrast to the 75p increase pensioners received under Labour in 2000. More people than ever are saving into a work place pension up nearly 50 percent in the last 6 years, and significantly driven by younger people. Through automatic- enrolment we have helped create almost 10 million new pensions savers.
Ashley Fox, MEP Leader of the Conservative Delegation of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group had given the last speech of any MEP and the position was now permanently vacant. He said ‘no’ to a second referendum and urged us to get behind the Prime Minister for an independent, free Britain to be delivered.
The RT Hon Dominic Raab, MP Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union accepted the Prime Minister’s offer to join her cabinet because his approach to Brexit is pragmatic, not dogmatic. The essence of our democracy is to respect the result of the referendum. What isn’t democracy are the efforts of a small, but influential group of senior politicians and establishment figures to overturn the result of the referendum. They want to stop us leaving. They would probably find from their research that the public doesn’t like the idea of a second referendum. That’s all right because they’ll rebrand it a ‘People’s Vote’. They might buy that! The Project Fear stuff didn’t work to well first-time round. Thai’s because it wasn’t scary enough. This time they’ll claim that No Deal means patients won’t get their medicines mobile phones roaming charges will go through the roof and space debris will fall from the sky. A deliberate tactic to weaken the UK’s negotiating position for their own political gain. The left-wing extremists who took control of the Labour Party are led by Jeremy Corbyn and Joh McDonnell. Under the nose of Labour’s leaders, they’re using all the tools in the extremists’ armoury. That a once –great mainstream party should stoop so low is a stain on Britain. Dominic’s father arrived in England at the age of six. He grew up knowing that his grandmother, grandfather, most of his relatives had been systematically murdered for no reason other than they were Jews. He vowed to honour his father’s memory by fighting the scourge of antisemitism and racism until his last breath.
Next were variety of contributions from Party members. First to the platform was our old friend Graham Evans who had been MP for Weaver Vale and still lives in Rainow. He spoke about the hospitality industry and even admitted to having met his wife whilst she was working in a local pub. This industry has a turnover of £130 billion which is more than the automotive industry and equal to the defence budget. Apparently, we do hospitality like no other and he hoped to see us all down at the pub!
Entrepreneur, Kazin Sale referred to the 2500 new businesses which start every day and how entrepreneurs will be vital after Brexit. Regrettably, only 500 of the 2500 make their second year. He called for a reduction in red tape and reminded us that the Party expect young members to wear a suite and tie!
Jeremy McDonald, local councillor for Trossachs and Teith had looked for a shelf stacking job to balance his time as a local councillor. He wanted to ensure everyone was valued and never left behind.
According to the media, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP Secretary of State for Transport apparently arrived seven minutes late to his own speech. I suspect the majority of us in the hall were oblivious to this minor glitch in the well-oiled machine of conference. In addressing conference, he remarked on how the government were taking big decisions. After a 50-year delay, there was now a parliamentary majority to expand Heath Row. Furthermore, Newquay Airport had also received approval for expansion. Lord Yong, formerly Sir George Young was on the team and apologies were given over the new train timetable. In future, it would be easier to claim compensation when a problem occurred. Whilst Labour fail the Conservatives succeed. Evolution was not enough, it required revolution. Work on HS2 had begun and Birmingham had a new station which will relieve rail traffic. Every ‘P’ in car tax is being invested in roads. And you’ll be pleased to learn he is addressing the problem where too many pot holes are caused by poor road repairs. By 2040 there will be no more diesel or petrol cars and we can expect to see driverless cars in the next 3 – 4 years. This will help the elderly. Plus, a flexible new bus service for rural areas. Labour promise everything and give nothing and they have never been so extreme.
Further contributions from Party members included:
Tim Law who applauded ‘beneficial ownership’, transparency and for the government to know with whom they’re doing business.
A family lawyer for Stroud wanted families to thrive.
Kun Lipyun wanted to promote maths and English to help even more traders.
Dinara Black asked to close the gender pay gap and to extend child care.
Jake Cowperthwaite said economics was more about people and outlined what we had done to contribute to a better economy.
Saqib Bhatti, the youngest ever President of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the first Muslim to take over the reins, promoted free enterprise as the greatest gift to future generations. Saqib’s contribution provided a timely introduction to the next speaker.
The Rt Hon Greg Clarke, MP Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy appeared via a satellite link live from a Manufacturing Technology Centre outside Coventry. Here they specialised in developing technology for 500 companies to develop their ideas last year whilst working with the government. You will understand the connection when I tell you we are currently the world leader in small satellites and the 1stlaunch pads in Europe are in the North of Scotland.
The Rt Hon Liz Truss, MP Chief Secretary to the Treasury explained how Conference is a platform for Conservatives to make the big arguments about our country’s future. To fight the big fight on the Great Playing Field of ideas or in her case to talk about Cheese. She had prepared a long speech about the trends in British cheddar exports but we would have to miss out because this year she had been told that there’s not to be any Cheese Chat. It wasn’t just annoying, but a disgrace! So instead she talked about the Treasury. She’s constantly dealing with Secretaries of State and their requests for more money. It does mean you get a reputation for being a ‘Bad Cop’. Ministers don’t always walk away happy. For example, she joked, after recently denying a request form one particular Secretary of State and woke up the next day to find a tarantula in her bed. What she learned from that experience was never to mess with David Mundell! Although having been warned by Treasury advisers not to make any jokes, and they haven’t always gone down well, she doesn’t like Government telling her what to do. The young people she has met in her job aren’t heading for communes, they are entrepreneurs, disruptors and change-makers who want smart and efficient Government which has a role but doesn’t get in the way. In concluding she referred to Philp Hammond, as one unsung Conservative hero who’s kept our economy on track over the last few years. The boy from Essex with the punk hair and leather jacket has become the steady hand on the tiller of the economy. And he’s known as ‘no frills –Phil’.
The Rt Hon Philp Hammond, MP Chancellor of the Exchequer said his birthday present to the Prime Minister was a policy which has the wholehearted support of both Anna Soubry and Andrew Bridge. He was determined not to make a speech all about Brexit but about the economy. There were a couple of facts that couldn’t be changed. The first being geographic and so whatever the outcome, Europe will remain firmly anchored just a few miles off the coast of Kent. We will still go on drinking their wine and lying on their beaches. The second fact being economic and Europe remains by far our biggest market. He shared the Prime Minister’s determination to get the Chequers plan agreed. Mr Tusk says it won’t work but that’s what people said about the light bulb in 1878. Brexit didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened because over the last 20 or so years, as the world has got smaller, a gap has opened up in Britain and other developed countries. Despite what we may think Phil is an optimist and some even call him ‘glass half full Phil’! We must convince others about our evolution and not be tempted by the dangerous populism of our opponents. Their failed and faded ideologies of socialism are directly from the Socialist manual. Nationalising railways, confiscating wealth, running out of money and borrowing more. We know we can’t get long term change on Amazon Prime, ordered today and delivered tomorrow. Margaret Thatcher, as so often put it beautifully: “We are in the business of planting trees for our children and grandchildren – or we have no business in politics at all”. The Conservative Party is, and always will be, the party of business. The Government will provide £30m of support to “Be the Business”, a business – led initiative to get big- companies to mentor small companies so they can develop their management and leadership skills to maximise their potential. We’ve got Labour’s deficit, which reached almost 10% of GDP down to less than 2%, delivered eight years of economic growth since 2010 creating over 3 million more jobs; taken unemployment to a 43-year low; announced an unprecedented £84 billion real - terms funding boost for the NHS; maintained Britain as the world’s fifth largest economy and London as the world’s financial capital; delivered tax cuts for 31 million people; lifted wages of the lowest paid by £2,000 a year since 2016. A remarkable record of Conservative achievement of which we can be justifiably proud.
With so much content from the morning session I was’ hungry’ for more. After a swift glance at my list of fringe events I rushed along to Relations with Europe after Brexit: The Conservatives and the European Conservatives and Reformists. Group
Andrew Lewer, MP had a variety of jobs in 4 years and been a Derbyshire County Councillor, an MEP and MP. He had tried to liaise to be the bridge but found it doesn’t work as contacts move on. David Cameron had thought he could see Angela Merkel to get something sorted but that didn’t work. Chequers won’t work as we would have no say but have to abide by all the rules. However, we should not turn our backs on the ECR members. In terms of economic shock in the event of a ‘No Deal’ means different things to different people. There is a whisper, Brussels is saying by being as difficult as possible will bring about another referendum. Holland hopes for the best but fears the worst. Possibly federalism will happen with other countries waiting to see how Brexit goes before they join. Apparently, the European Parliament is the most anti-British organisation. Taking Austria and Hungary as examples, each time Europe interferes it back fires. Andrew Lewer considers Chequers won’t be put forward as it is not approved by us and Europe will probably accept whatever alternative we present. A delegate from Serbia asked if they should join and was told they shouldn’t expect to be able to change anything if they joined. It seems the EU works on making international agreements on insomnia. It was hard to comprehend what would happen when boarding a flight where the pilot was devoid of sleep. In conclusion, the meeting thought it would not be possible for a deal on 29thMarch 2019 since it has to be legislated in advance.
The afternoon sessions, Opportunity for Future Generations included contributions from Party Members. Shazia Bashir, a Muslim Councillor from Peterborough who took the seat from Labour after 100 years introduced the Rt Hon James Brokenshire, MP Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. James had suffered with lung cancer since the last conference. Although he may be half a lung lighter he thought the best days lie ahead of us. The last time a Government committed to building 300,000 homes a year was in 1951 when Harold Macmillan was Conservative Housing Minister. Super Mac did it then and we will do it again, building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s. We need to be smarter on how we use land, prioritising brownfield and proposing to permit people to build on existing buildings rather than build out to use more precious land. A million first time buyers are expected to benefit from our cuts to stamp duty with 80% of first time buyers paying no stamp duty at all. He wants to see a new deal for social housing tenants to deliver decent homes and to end rough sleeping for good. Most profoundly, people should be safe in their own homes. That is why he will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible materials for all new high rise residential buildings, hospitals, registered care homes and student accommodation. In 2022 Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games which is why he announced the Government funding for construction of the Athletes Village. This will be £165 million investment to help support the delivery of 5,100 new homes creating a legacy for Birmingham and from the Commonwealth Games.
Next up on the platform, Conference welcomed the inspirational Lewis Pugh, a British – South African endurance swimmer and ocean advocate, the Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming. He clearly demonstrated his potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world and shared a few hard facts. In 2005 the temperature in the Arctic was 3 deg. C and had increased to 10 deg. C in 2017. We must consider the impact this will have on everything in twelve years’ time when there is no ice. It took him 49 days to complete his challenge to swim the length of the English Channel from Lands’ End to Dover in support of cleaning up the oceans. He saw very little wild life a few jelly fish and tons of plastic. Protection must mean protection but where the Goodwin Sands are concerned the Harbour Board wants to dredge up aggregate. We are now in the era of big consequences and in the words of Desmond Tutu, when you protect the environment you foster peace. Lewis appealed to Conference to protect the South Sandwich Islands in Antarctica.
This had been an appropriate introduction to the Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He said our island nation had been defined by its relationship with the sea. It had been our doorway to global trade but now our oceans are in danger form exploitation and indeed from plastic. He will take steps to make recycling easier, invest on cleaner technologies, and take tougher action against fly-tippers. Harold Wilson used to say the Labour Party was a moral crusade or was nothing. Now Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is a toxic cocktail of unrepentant Marxism-Leninism and unacceptable. For the sake of our children we should commit to unite so that the Moscow –loving, Hamas – hugging, high- taxing, moderate-bashing, job-destroying, National Anthem – avoiding, NATO – hating, class war-provoking, one-man museum of economic folly that is Jeremy Corbyn, is never let anywhere near Downing Street. In thanking his Parliamentary colleagues, he mentioned our MP, David Rutley who is now a minister to oversee the protection of food supplies through the Brexit process. He also extended thanks to the farmers who are the backbone of Britain. Through a £15 million investment, the millions of tonnes of good food which is thrown away every year is to be redistributed to those most in need. This should result in up to 250 million extra meals a year to the most deserving. Our farmers will be paid the money that they deserve and need to look after our countryside and restore natural beauty. The tragic decline of our fishing industry can at last be reversed and we can take back control of our waters and provide a new sea of opportunity. We have ensured that CCTV cameras are installed in all abattoirs so there is no hiding place for cruelty. And the sentence for those who abuse animals will be increased form 6 months to 5 years. In short, more action is required to preserve our world, but some people might say that we are setting our sights too high. They clearly don’t know our party.
The next flow of contributions from Party Members included:
Virginia Crosby, Director of Women to Win and also a Maths teacher. She lives near Grenfell Tower and helps place young people and gets young adults started in business.
Sheila Bodel spoke about the need for more collaboration between schools and employers and had seen the first Career Enterprise Zone in Northern Ireland.
Lewis Fielder questioned what does opportunity really mean. Edmund Burke had said it’s a contract between living and those not yet born. Education unlocks opportunity and when you do well you don’t pull the ladder up behind you.
The Rt Hon Ruth Davidson, MSP Leader of the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party followed these contributions. Seven years ago, she came to conference looking to lead the party north of the border. She promised she would grow the Conservative family in Scotland and so never let it be said she isn’t a woman of her word. Whether you’re Conservative, Labour, Leave or Remain, Yes or No we must respect the democratic choices we make or we undermine the principles we all claim to uphold. Does she think she can beat he SNP? Damn right she does. Because Scotland has had enough negativity and grievance, the decade long moan, she wants to crack on and to become the First Minister of Scotland.
Paul Davies, AM Leader of the Welsh Conservative Party in the Welsh Assembly introduced himself as a man on a mission to change Wales with one massive leap. Labour had been running Wales into the ground over the last 20years. Education there had now fallen below the level of the former communist states of Eastern Europe.
David Runcowes admitted he had been to prison to see how it affects the lives of young people. And Britain has the highest level of family instability in the developed world.
Kirsty Finlayson had gone vegan but admitted when asked how she could replied, she didn’t go shooting and being a Conservative meant voting for Brexit.
Miles Evans on approaching 30 years of age related to the success stories of other 30 year olds, like J K Rowling when they were of that age. Whilst futurology is challenging we should be optimistic.
Daniel Cohen urged conference not to accept young people aren’t interested in Conservatives.
Ola Kolade left Nigeria at the age of twelve to move to London. Having suffered with the job market in 2009 became more resilient and recognised the need to create opportunities.
Dr Fabio Conti, a London GP and Parliamentary Candidate for Ealing wanted to empower GPs to send people to the avenues of support of social prescribing.
Since our MP had been PPS for the Rt Hon Damian Green, MP it was interesting to attend a fringe meeting where the ex-minister was in conversation with Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator. The topic What Next for the Over 60s? Social Care and Beyond. He didn’t advocate launching new ideas in a manifesto. In terms of funding social care this was difficult when no one paid enough tax and four out of five people don’t think they’ll need social care. A care surcharge at over 40 years of age could be the solution. Did we realise there is £!.7 trillion in equity in the over 65’s who own their own homes? Some of the housing equity of this category could fund an insurance policy. It was thought that your last home should be your best home. The Party needs to improve at telling their story. There’s too much care that’s not suitable. We could keep on increasing the pension age. People are better at accepting things like an increase in retirement age rather than taking something away that they already had. For example, the bus pass. The unfairness for ‘last time buyers’ – older people who are looking to make their final property purchase but have nowhere to move, needs changing. Heart and cancer patients receive treatment by the NHS but dementia patients have to finance their care down to their threshold of £23,000. One final controversial, thought, should we regularise assisted dying?
After such a disturbing point on which to end I looked forward to meeting my colleagues in the Jury’s Inn for our annual early evening drinks reception together with the Cheshire and Wirral Conservatives. For expediency, we combined our usual soiree with David Rutley and the other Macclesfield delegates at the same venue. Somehow, I managed to get caught ‘red handed’ by one of the Cheshire East representatives whilst holding not one but two glasses of red wine. Rather amusingly, the introduction went along the lines of ‘and you must be a person with a drink problem!’ Oh, the joys of conference. Later on, I accompanied our Association Chairman Diana Thompson, Ladies Chairman, Pat Robbie and David Rutley’s case worker, Jackie Pattison in Weatherspoon’s for an extremely entertaining dinner.
Tuesday morning’s topic, A Stronger Fairer United Kingdom involved the three Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in conversation with the Rt Hon David Liddington, CBE MP Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office. The Rt Hon Alun Cairns, MP Secretary of State for Wales proudly announced the scrapping of the Severn Bridge Toll. Ireland’s Secretary, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley, MP extended thanks to the police. She commented on the benefits from membership of our precious union and supports devolution in Northern Ireland. Scotland’s Secretary, the Rt Hon David Mundell, WS MP reminded conference they had gone from a team of one to twelve which made all the difference between Corbyn becoming Prime Minister or not or the threat of a second independent referendum. He said the SNP wanted to take the fisheries policy back to the EU. The team meet fortnightly to keep up to date on policy implementation of the Union.
The RT Hon Andrea Leadsom, MP Leader of the House of Commons followed a similar routine but in conversation with Natalie, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, Leader of the House of Lords; Victoria Atkins, MP Minister for Women; Cllr Nickie Aiken, Leader of Westminster City Council and Helen Whately, MP Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Women. Andrea was eager to strive towards equal numbers of men and women MPs. She had encouraged proxy voting for those on maternity leave. Nickie suggested we should recognise the menopause. There was recognition that abusive comments on Twitter were causing problems and more control was needed. The Prime Minister appeared on screen in a short video inviting more women to become Councillors or Members of Parliament. Overall, in order to enter into public life, it was necessary to establish the motivation behind the decision.
More contributions from Party Members included:
Jed Dwight, the son of a lorry driver whose brother was amongst the 6230 suicides in 2017 in the UK.
Steven Mastin, Chairman of the Conservative Education Society and state school history teacher was aware the Conservatives provided more freedom in teaching.
Donald pointed out that the UK is the conscience of the world.
Jacob Hill, a young entrepreneur who founded The Lazy Camper and now an ex offender had dealt drugs from his tent at a music festival. He recommends that prison should be about rehabilitation.
These contributions presented an introduction to the Rt Hon David Gauke, MP Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He announced he was the first Lord Chancellor from his home town in Ipswich since Cardinal Wolsey and that didn’t end well for him! That aside he proclaimed there was a £40 million investment to make prisons safer and that custody should be a last resort.
We had heard a rumour that Boris Johnson was to address an audience in Hall 1 at 13.00hrs. Since it was incumbent on Jackie and I to explore the content of his presentation it was imperative we quickly joined a rather long queue. He welcomed his fellow ConHomers to Birmingham where so many thoroughfares in the city are already named after Birmingham’s Superb Conservative mayor, Andy Street! He was worried that after 200 years, this oldest and most successful of all political parties should somehow lose confidence in its basic belief in freedom. If he had one function there today it was to try to put some lead in the collective pencil, to stop what seems to him to be a ridiculous seeping away of our self-belief, and to invite us to feel realistic and justified confidence in what we can do. We could surely to goodness take this Tony Benn tribute act and wallop it for six. We cannot and must not and will not let those weaselly cabal of superannuated Marxist and Hugo Chavez – admiring anti-Semitism – condoning Kremlin apologist anywhere near the government of this country. It’s only by making sure that the streets are safer and we bring back stop and search that you give people the peace of mind they need. We should set our taxes at the optimum rate to stimulate investment and growth, and to be constantly aiming not to increase but to cut taxes to increase yields. Not long ago he became the first Foreign Secretary to visit Peru for 52 years and wondered why it had taken so long. It was because our entire global strategy has focused on the EU. And while that may have been sensible in the 1970s, when we first joined the common market, it makes less sense in the globalised economy of today when 95 per cent of the world’s growth is outside the EU. I suppose therefor it’s somehow fitting our Pott Shrigley Community Cinema recently raised funds for Project Peru following the screening of Paddington 2. It’s such a mistake for us to leave on the Chequers terms, locked in the tractor beam of Brussels. We will be prevented from making our own laws and have to abide by the ridiculous EU Laws. It would mean whatever the EU came up with, banning the sale of eggs by the dozen, banning diabetics from driving, banning vaping all of this nonsense we would have to implement. This is not taking back control, this is forfeiting control. They want to demonstrate you cannot leave the EU without suffering adverse political consequences. Instead of making our own laws, the UK will be effectively paraded in manacles down the Rue de la Loi like Cararctacus. We can’t fudge it now and fix it later. All the options are derived from the prime ministers own vision at Lancaster House. This country is already light years ahead in Tech, data, bioscience, financial services etc. We can use our regulatory freedom to intensify those advantages. If we get it right, it can be win – win for both sides of the channel. If we get it wrong and proceed with this undemocratic solution, if we remain half in half out we’ll have Brexosis. He rounded off by urging our friends in government to deliver what the people voted for, to back Theresa May in the best way possible, by softly, quietly and sensibly backing her original plan. And in so doing to believe in conservatism and to believe in Britain.
The afternoon session, High - Quality Public Services began with further contributions from Party Members.
Cllr Suzanne Webb, Area Chairman for Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull referred to EBacc, a combination of subjects that the government thinks are important for young people to study at GCSE.
Gordon Gregory, a surgeon and PPC who had overcome a stammering impediment. He was passionate about the best chance for the survival of the NHS which was to keep Corbyn out of ‘number 10’.
The Rt Hon Damion Hind, MP Secretary of State for Education opened by sharing his research on people’s education and what really made the difference for them when they were at school. It wasn’t a smart board, text book exam or scheme of work. It was always about a person, the one standing in front of the class. We are now back in the international top ten from primary reading. Within the next couple of years, we are bringing in ‘T’ Levels, a new qualification for 16 to 18 year olds. It will be a direct alternative to ‘A’ Levels, but focused on key vocational subjects. This will be funded by a £38 million capitol pot to make sure that colleges teaching those first ‘T’ Levels from 2020 can do so with world class equipment and facilities. Sometimes someone will leave with almost nothing in qualifications but aspire to do something amazing in life. What often makes the difference is something we might call character. Something that you will never see on a certificate of education, but you know it when you see it. For many young people, it is sport that really unlocks their talents and potential. In the last few years, we have been able to commit to vote over £900 million to the primary sports premium. It was the first One Nation Conservative, the original Benjamin Disraeli who said, “Upon the education of the people the fate of this country depends”. Since then, it has been the Conservatives who have most resolutely acted upon that, From Balfour to Butler, from Baker to Gove.
Additional contributions from Party Members also included:
Samantha England thought we needed healthy people in the work place and to ditch the blame culture.
Elliot Colburn a new local councillor and NHS worker wanted to help shape the NHS to reach the next 70 years.
Nabil Najjar commented on the public services sterling work in Salisbury after the Skripal’s poisoning.
Another member thought millennials hadn’t known a life without mobile phones.
Alexandra Hayward paid tribute to public service workers.
Finally, entrepreneur Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of local government AI (Artificial Intelligence), introduced the RT Hon Matthew Hancock, MP Secretary of Health and Social Care. He spoke affectionately about the NHS and of his sister whose life had been saved at Southmead Hospital in Bristol last year after a near fatal brain injury. Cancer survival rates are at an all-time high; strokes are down by a third; deaths from heart failure down by a quarter; and the NHS is doing more than ever. 39,000 more clinicians looking after patients than in 2010. 12,000 more nurses on our wards; 14,000 more doctors; 1 million more seen by cancer specialists each year; 2 million more operations; 3 million more treated in A & E. The result of all this is at every stage of life, people are healthier than ever. He wants us to make the NHS the best health service in the world. The Prime Minister has committed an extra £20 billion over the next five years. It’s the largest, longest financial settlement in the entire history of the NHS and will underpin the NHS for the long term. Furthermore, an extra £240 million is available to pay for social care packages this winter to support our NHS. The NHS is still the biggest buyer of fax machines in the country so were going to sort out the technology in the NHS, because it deserves better. Today, it takes on average more than 5 years to diagnose rare diseases with endless tests and trial treatments. But thanks to the 100,000-genome project now by continuing your own gene sequence with machine learning on others you can be diagnosed in days. What is more, there’s the potential to design a drug specifically to treat your unique biological code. The Birmingham university hospital is growing replicas of people’s cancers in the lab to test individual drugs to see if they destroy the cancer before subjecting the patient to that drug. The era of moving all activity into fewer larger hospitals and blindly, invariably, closing community hospitals is over. More services are needed closer to the communities they serve. By taking a common-sense approach, more people should be empowered to have more control over their health resulting in more prevention and perspiration.
Rural GP, Richard West commented on the inability to Skype patients’ due to inadequate internet connections.
We swerved on the next session from various Mayors in favour of a fringe meeting, in conversation with Michael Gove, Protecting Oceans, Reducing Plastic. The result of The Blue Planet programme had dramatically raised awareness of plastic. Regulatory requirements were needed to allow invalids to use plastic straws. In terms of tackling recycling we should consider separate food waste collection and other difficult to handle recyclables such as ball point pen refills, plastic balloons sticks, KFC packets. Climate change certainly has a huge impact on the country and government should be held to account. Following the hysteria recently generated by Michael Stove, sorry, I meant Michael Gove, there will not be any need for the ‘stove police’. I have received confirmation that it’s quite acceptable to burn dry wood and the necessity for an improvement in the manufacture of new stoves.
As I have a lifelong affinity for the Health Service it was definitely appropriate to attend the Centre for Policy Studies, In Conversation with the RT Hon Matthew Hancock, MP. Additionally, it was an opportune time to meet him and to celebrate his 40th birthday, with cake, candle and all! As previously eluded to, he wanted to ‘Axe the Fax’; introduce genomes on medical records; although not closing community hospitals there was still a need for a variety of specialist hospitals; the need for close integration of social care and hospital. We want to underpin our strong economy and Labour want to put a strong economy in hospital. Systems need to talk to each other and we should stop sending letters which take up to 6 weeks. Procurement service has been launched to drive down costs of the likes of Paracetamol which cost 1 to 2p verses 9p via the doctor. The question was asked over which operation came first for a blind incapacitated patient - a hip operation or cataract? There are a record number of GPs in training and apprenticeship routes into nursing, but GPs are retiring at a high rate of numbers.
It became evident from the multitude of people dining during the evening that tables were scarce in Brindley Place. And so, Diana, Pat, Jackie and I headed to Pizza Express for another entertaining dinner engagement.
During the week, we had identified a quicker route to access conference. We set off on Wednesday morning at a fast pace with David Rutley in time to join the lengthy queue for Campaign 2022 in the Symphony Hall.
Gotz Mohindra, the Voluntary Party Chairman, introduced London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey. Although born and bred in London he was the grandson of a Jamaican soldier. Having sofa surfed he knows how to communicate with Londoners. In terms of what the conservatives had done for a black man, they had made him the candidate for Mayor of London.
Chris Skidmore, MP Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Policy confirmed he was listening to areas across the UK to build a manifesto.
Tom Pursglove, MP Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Youth encouraged youth membership.
Helen Whately, MP Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Women encouraged women to stand for parliament.
Cllr Hayley Grainger, a small business owner in Leamington Spa reminded us there were only 215 days to the May elections.
Charles Fifield, from Cheshire West told his fellow Conservative members as a borough councillor he had always tried to advance the causes of his fellow disabled people.
Reena Ranger grew up over a sweet shop and became PPC in Birmingham in 2017 for the party of meritocracy.
Sue Pascoe wanted to thank the Prime Minister personally on behalf of the transgender community for making it clear to the whole nation that being transgender is not an illness. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King, “The time is always right to do what is right”.
Teen Tory activist and PPC, Matt Leigh from Trafford described himself more as a mini Gove rather than a Mini Mogg! He wondered how Corbyn had managed to pick up 47% of first time voters when only the Conservative Party are fully supportive of young people who want to get on in life. Apparently, if you’re socialist at twenty you have no heart and if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re forty you have no brain.
Katy Bourne, Police & Crime Commissioner for Sussex appealed to conference to find outstanding women in their network and ask them to stand.
Attorney General, the Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox QC MP’s booming speech had Conference in awe. With a Richard Burton voice, Churchiilan style, and Rumpole humour he was a hidden star. Having voted to leave the EU, he extolled the virtues of Brexit declaring it is based on hope, not fear. He offered apologies to the Rolling Stones saying “you can’t always get what you want”. The audience went wild and the Prime Minister nailed her entrance.
As Abba’s Dancing Queen was played through the PA system, Theresa May hoofed her way on stage doing a reprise of her cringe-inducing South African Peter Crouch dance. She certainly won over the hall with a little self-depreciation. She asked to be excused if she coughed during her speech as she had been up all night supergluing the backdrop. In the event of a problem she could always borrow the voice of Geoffrey Cox. As this year marks, a century since the end of the first world war, a few hundred yards away stands the Hall of Memory inscribed within it are some familiar words, “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.” If we come together there’s no limit to what we can achieve. She had seen the trailer for The Bodyguard and said it wasn’t like that in her day! John McCain whom spoke at this conference 12years ago said, “We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.” Conservatives will always stand up for politics that unite us rather than divide us. We must be a party motivated by enduring principles which can be summed up in three words: Security, Freedom and Opportunity. Conservatives have looked after the NHS for most of its life and this year they gave the biggest cash boost in its history. An extra £394 million every single week. The new Cancer Strategy will increase the early detection rate from one-in - two today, to – three – in four by 2028. Jeremy Corbyn says a strong NATO simply provokes Russia. Theresa May, however says it is the guarantor of our freedom and security and we cannot outsource our conscience to the Kremlin. She will never accept a deal that keeps us in the EU in all but name or a deal that carves off Northern Ireland. Neither will she betray the result of the referendum and will never break up our country. Movement of people will be in the national interest. If we hold our nerve we can get a great deal that delivers for Britain. And together we will build a brighter future for the whole United Kingdom. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any country apart from America. In 2020, we will put the best of British creativity and innovation, culture and heritage on show in a year-long festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. With a whole world out there we should lift our horizons to meet it. All businesses large and small are reminded about the four- letter word to describe what we Conservatives want to do to them. It has a single syllable, Anglo-Saxon in derivation and ends in the letter ‘K’. It’s ‘Back’ business. Eight years on from 2010 we should be proud of our record. After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off. The Conservatives are fixing markets not destroying them, helping with the cost of living and ending austerity. This Party will deliver the future and be a party not for the few, not even for the many, but for everyone who works hard and plays by the rules.
Peter M Boulton