By Nicolle Laurie, Consultant, London
The Conservative Party Conference ended on a high. David Cameron gave one of his best-received speeches since becoming Prime Minister, with a speech which drew applause aplenty in Symphony Hall. Many lay the success of his speech down to the return of his close adviser, Steve Hilton, who will have been pleased to see the YouGov poll released yesterday, which shows that the Tories have overtaken Labour for the first time since March 2012; with the Conservatives on 35% and Labour on 34%. For an hour long speech Cameron made a number of policy announcements, which Political Intelligence analysed. However, there is some questioning how the party plan on affording the £12,500 tax allowance together with the news that Cameron plans on increasing the 40p tax threshold to £50,000.
Armed with our Fringe guides, we gained a lot of insight into the policy areas that will feature heavily in regards to transport, health and tech if the Conservatives are successful come to 2015.
A speech that has attracted a lot attention is that of Theresa May’s. She delivered a stern warning in regards to Islamist extremism and vowed to introduce the Communications Data Bill if the Conservatives are elected in May 2015. However, the contents of the speech has started a bit of a ruckus between her and the Lib Dems. May blamed them for blocking the Communications Data Bill and putting people’s lives at risk; something that hasn’t gone down too well with the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg demanded a public apology on his weekly LBC show. Political Intelligence is sure that this current coalition spat will be one of many between now and May 2015.
The deficit featured heavily during the conference with Osborne warning that more cuts were to come. The Tories were keen to stress all that they have achieved in terms of rebuilding the economy and cutting unemployment. Of interest to us was the repeated call by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, that there needs to be more investment in prevention not just cure; something that the 2020 Health debate on ‘Can we trust in health technology?’ also picked up on, which we covered. Hunt gave a strong indication, whilst being interviewed by Camilla Cavendish at conference (a journalist for The Times), that NHS investment in prevention would be a focus for the Conservatives if they won in 2015. The Conservatives, and most notably Cameron, made a conscious effort to signal that the NHS is not just a Labour issue, given Ed Miliband’s announcement at the Labour Party Conference. With this type of positioning there is concern that the economy, unemployment and the NHS will become embroiled in a political game of ping pong on the run up to the general election next year.
We did spot that the Transport Times event was one of the most well attended fringe events, with us struggling to find a seat. There is a clear focus on addressing the lack of capacity on the rail system, which signals that more investment will be dedicated to this area if the Conservatives win in 2015. Meanwhile, the TechCentral tent at conference, co-sponsored by Hotwire & Political Intelligence, was also very popular. Sajid Javid MP and Ed Vaizey MP both spoke at separate events and the workshops were full, with many having to stand, during the four days; showing how important the Conservative Party consider the tech sector.
We certainly had a busy time in Birmingham and the Conservative Party outlined a busy 5 years of government should they win in 2015. Cameron achieved all that he set out to during the four days of conference; reaffirm his position as party leader, outlining clear policies and galvanizing the Conservative Party base. He has set out policy that will chime well with core supporters and floating voters, whilst appealing to the middle and working classes.