Reflections on Blackpool

Everyone else seems to have managed to blog their reflections on Wednesday… I was on my way home to sleep!

However, now that the sleep deprivation, lack of vegetables and excess of chattering have started to wear off, it’s time for some thoughts on Blackpool…

1)    The Election

I’ve never thought Brown would call an election. He has problems in Scotland and Wales, he has never in his life taken the courageous decision, he is a politician and therefore convinced of his own brilliance, and (contradicting the last point but this is the essence of the man) terrified of losing. 

Despite a small wobble in my certainty towards the end of last week (frankly if he was going to call an election, then would have been the time to do it) and a corresponding worry that I was about to have to cough up for a very expensive lunch for someone who reckoned in early September that he would call it, I have returned to thinking he won’t. Can’t. But should. 

2)    Nights in the bar

Lots of fascinating chat. Mostly about whether or not there will be an election (see above). But also about the modernisation path. I was among the earliest Cameroons. I remain one of the strongest supporters I know of what David is doing. But I worried towards the end of last week that the team was being panicked into a lurch here, and a dog-whistle there and a return to internal preoccupations rather than what really matters to people.

I met three people on Tuesday night who were utterly convinced thatthis time, Europe was going to be THE vote-changing issue. It’s not. Yes it’s important but in a sort of background chuntering kind of way. It’s not the first thing people worry about when they wake up. We need to remain focused on what matters to people (as I wrote here. And here. Andhere).

3)    The Policies

I didn’t spend a lot of time listening to speeches or fringes. I know that there were some very detailed policy proposals discussed. 

I still have my doubts about the marriage tax-break (I don’t think it’s the piece of paper that cements the relationship which is makes it the best environment – I think it’s the commitment which leads to that piece of paper and you can’t legislate around that). 

Scrapping stamp duty for first-time buyers is cheap(ish), sends a clear signal that we are the party of aspiration, and signals our determination to help people to cement their place in their communities. 

I am still not convinced that our first tax cut should be inheritance tax (though of course we should cut it) but I’m more convinced by the way it will be restored to being a tax on the very rich – and I am intrigued by the flat levy on non-doms. Easy, simple, fair – what more could you want.

I’d like to have seen more flesh on the environmental policies (but presumably as with all the other policy areas, we’re saving a lot for the manifesto). 

I was SO encouraged by the way that so many of the ideas announced were rooted in the idea of returning control to local communities and to people. My worry is that the first outcry that a cancer-drug isn’t available to X community but is in Y is going to mean very difficult decisions – how do you say, “You make the decisions” and resist the temptation to say “except for a, b, c and d because otherwise it’s not fair”?

4)    The Speech

I loved David’s speech. Bits of it were a bit meandering. Bits of it were not terribly important to me personally. But overall we got a sense of where he is, where the Party is and most importantly where it’s all going. I’m not bothered whether or not he had notes, an autocue, a hundred hours of rehearsal or whatever. He could have had an earpiece feeding him the speech for all I care (but didn’t, before anyone gets excited). He talked about the broad sweep of what matters to people in a distinctive David-way, and showed us why voting for a Conservative government will make the difference. If they had rifled through my brain, there’s not a lot that they could have changed (though I retain my reservations about the marriage tax-break proposals and about inheritance tax). 

Modernising/the Cameron project/whatever you want to call it does not mean that there’s a choice between being a Conservative and winning an election. It’s absolutely fundamental to both. Articulating Conservative principles of opportunity, aspiration, support and freedom for today and tomorrow are the core values of where we stand now. This speech showed exactly how to do that.

5)    The Aftermath

We don’t talk about polls. (But – up 4, up 5, up 5 – pretty good going so far!)

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