Policy of the day
Dave’s speech: something for everyone?
Conference delegates were waiting from early this morning to get into Symphony Hall and listen to David Cameron’s speech; seats were like gold dust. Michael Gove was the one to introduce Cameron; showing how valued he is by the party. Gove, like many other Conservative politicians over the last 4 days, used his speech to praise Cameron and openly mock Ed Miliband and the speech he delivered at the Labour Party Conference; referring to it as Ed’s « agonising pursuit of floating voters through London parks ». With a round of applause, of which Gove received many at conference, he was off the stage and on came Cameron looking statesman like, in control and someone geared up to get the job done.
Cameron wasted no time getting stuck into what the Conservative Party will do if they get elected next year; protecting the NHS budget, creating 3 million more apprenticeships, scrapping the zero-hours contract, scrapping of the Human Rights Act, 100,000 new homes for first time buyers, he reiterated his commitment to the EU in/out referendum, committed to « English votes for English laws » and said that every teenager could have a place on the National Citizenship Service. That’s a lot of announcements in an hour! However, the two most poignant policy issues he raised where in regards to the tax system; the Conservatives would increase the tax allowance from £10,500 to £12,500 and raise the 40p income tax threshold from £41,900 to £50,000 if they were successful in 2015. This will take one million of the lowest-paid out of income tax and give a tax cut to 30 million more. Both announcements were warmly received by the audience in the hall, but critics indicated that the devil was in the detail and questioned when this would be possible and how it would be financed.
The economy has been a focus during this Conservative Party Conference; both George Osborne and David Cameron have been proud to talk of their record but have acknowledged more needs to be done. The energy from Cameron today conveys a message of someone who started a job that they want to see through, well into the next parliament. As Cameron said, he wants Britain to be ‘a country where if you put in, you get something out.’ We’ll see if this strong speech sets the Conservatives in the right direction going into an election year and whether it can help stem the UKIP tide that openly threatens any hope of victory in 2015.
Quote of the day
Snowy vs Vladimir
“Can you imagine Ed Miliband facing down Vladimir Putin or taking on the President of Iran? I would trust my bichon frise puppy Snowy to show more strength on the world stage.”
[The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Chief Whip]
Tweet of the day
What about Gareth? @iainmartin1
Picture of the day
Whilst Dave was dazzling the party faithful, a solitary UKIP campaigner could be found outside the Conference hall recycling an old proverb to communicate his party’s immigration policy:
Fringe events were few and far between today so we have taken the opportunity to focus on a particularly interesting transport debate from Mondays’ packed programme:
Transport Times – Beyond HS2: What next for Rail
Transport Minister Claire Perry MP participated in a packed Transport Times event, which provided some respite from previous conferences with a focus on rail issues other than HS2. Together with Steve Scimshaw (Siemens) and Alistair Gordon (Keolis UK) they discussed the options to help unlock growth and bring prosperity across the UK. Perry was insistent that this Government was committed to long term infrastructure projects and politicians had for too long ducked some big decisions.
There was agreement that the UK railway had seen a remarkable turnaround in the past 15 years, becoming the fastest growing network in Europe, as well as the safest and most reliable. Customer satisfaction was improving but Perry recognised the need to do more and resolve the capacity pains not only in the south east but also in the north of England. Major projects like HS2, crossrail and thameslink needed to continue but there needed to be a mixed approach. This included improved interconnection between cities, better integration amongst different transport modes and improved use of technology to be smarter and react to customer demands. Signalling reform would play a big part by enabling more trains down the tracks at peak times.
The questions in the audience stressed the need for an HS3 across the north of England as well as greater connectivity along regional lines. The question of devolution was also raised and whether the DfT really wanted to deliver the rhetoric from Government. Perry felt that this was the case and industry stakeholders welcomed the move and the desire to reflect the improvements that had taken place both in London and Scotland since transport had been devolved.
The panel believed that the long term planning was necessary in order to prepare for future capacity demand. Improving the planning process was recognised as still a vital problem to get projects moving quickly without trampling over the democratic process. Inevitably there was only a finite of money available and some projects would not be possible but Perry outlined the Government’s intention to make the bold decisions to provide long term leadership that would provide confidence for investors in Britain.