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Conservative Party Conference – points of note

On 04/10/13 by Sophie McIntyre

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The first point well worth flagging is, of course, the picture above. The Chairman of the BBPA's North West Executive, Richard Kershaw of Joseph Holt, arranged for the Chancellor, Rt Hon George Osborne MP, to receive the North West Beer Drinker's Champion award at Conference. The above picture shows BBPA Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds, presenting him with the award and thanking him once again for the much needed cut to beer duty in year's Budget. The Chancellor even raised a rare smile during his conference speech as he mentioned his recent Budget cut in beer duty.

BBPA meetings aside, the Prime Minister delivered his speech to Conservative Party Conference this week. In contrast to his previous conference speech, it was delivered more as a response to the Leader of the opposition’s pre-new labour speech at Brighton, instead of being a defining statement of Government strategy. Cameron did not live up to the impressive memory skills of his contender – he was even stumbling over some of the words on the autocue – but in terms of content, the message was positive but a long way from triumphant.

He suggested that the economy is on the mend but is not yet fully healed and stressed the need for the Tories to remain in power in order to nurse it back to full health. There were no dramatic policy announcements, other than the brief declaration that the party wants to see under 25s ‘earning or learning’ (which has received typically mixed views from the pundits this week). The speech was more of a statement of what the Conservatives have achieved in power and a reassertion of the party’s traditional values. Cameron attacked Ed Miliband for embracing a "damaging, nonsensical, twisted economic policy" and claimed Labour would take Britain back to dark days of 1970s socialism, whilst his Conservatives were the party of the future, the guarantors of a "land of opportunity". The rather lacklustre speech disguised the fact that it had actually been a good conference for the Conservatives. The green shoots of economic recovery seemed to have raised party spirits, the recent Syria fiasco and divisions over the EU were hardly touched upon and even Boris Johnson made light of his leadership ambitions.

Away from Manchester and returning to the bigger picture - there has been a clear ideological contrast between the parties throughout this year’s conference season. Clegg, Miliband and Cameron all used their key-note conference speeches to set out what they really believe and in doing so firmed up the battle-lines for the 2015 General Election. The Conservative/Labour split on business is perhaps the most important, however. It was Ed Miliband’s announcements to freeze energy prices and to force landowners to sell or develop vacant land that drew all the headlines last week. These pre-New Labour approaches have set the Labour leader far apart from the Prime Minister’s party in terms of ideas pertaining to business. Whilst the Tories continued to put forward their traditional free market values aimed at stoking economic growth, Labour presented a much more interventionist line. We now have work to do to influence Labour’s thinking over the coming months on minimum pricing and advertising in particular.


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