Guest blog: Tony Caldeira finally finishes his Conservative party conference diary
Tony Caldeira, is a busy man. As well as being chairman of the Liverpool Conservatives he also runs a successful cushion manufacturing empire.
Here he finally finishes off his Conservative party conference diary, better late than never.
Tuesday morning and another busy day ahead. Lots on the conference agenda today with sessions on public services, crime, welfare reform and cutting global poverty.
First though for Liverpool Conservatives there is a meeting with senior volunteers from Conservative Central Office. The tone is positive following the improvement in the performance of the Conservative Party in Liverpool at the general election in 2010.
Across the five constituencies in Liverpool the Conservative Party increased its vote by over 50% on May 6th. At the same time the Liberal Democrat general election vote in the city fell slightly, despite the increased turnout. A significant swing.
This increase was due to the changes made to the Party by David Cameron, the work done by Chris Grayling MP as "Shadow Minister for Merseyside", lots of hard work from the team of local candidates and an excellent contribution from our activists and Conservative Future. Oh, and we were also helped by the worst outgoing Labour Government ever!
In the main hall first Theresa May and then Iain Duncan Smith are the key contributors. IDS steals the show with his plans for welfare reform and his proposals to simplify the benefits system.
Welfare reform will not be easy but it is the right thing to do. Living on benefits cannot be a lifestyle choice, however the most vulnerable in society must be protected. This is a difficult balance which I believe the former Party leader will get right.
Being trapped on benefits is a personal disaster for those concerned, a huge barrier for social mobility and a huge drain on our economy. The coalition must make work pay, both for people stuck on benefits and for the future competitiveness of the British economy. IDS's expensive and radical plans are further proof that despite the economic mess it inherited, the coalition is proving to be a radical and reforming government.
Meanwhile, outside the hall, the BBC are looking for a first time conference "virgin" to take part in a TV interview on the "cuts" agenda. Liverpool's Paul Athans, who was the candidate for Cressington ward in the local elections, volunteers to be grilled by the beeb's Huw Edwards for News 24.
We chat through the likely questions beforehand, come up with some appropriate answers and Paul is prepared. The BBC's three victims are in place and the cameras are ready to roll.
Suddenly the presenter hears from his producer that the subject has now changed and the discussion will be on the proposed cuts in child benefits to top rate tax payers! Thanks for the warning guys!
There are a few Liverpool Tories are in the wings giving moral support and we are now a bit nervous. Our Liverpool University Conservative Future Chair has had no time to prepare for the new topic.
He gets through the first question without any hiccups and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Later in the piece the discussion comes back to Paul and Huw Edwards pulls no punches. "The Conservatives want to scrap universal benefits but your Lib Dem coalition partners do not. Surely Paul this will lead to splits in the coalition?" Oooh, tricky.
We all hold our breath.
Well not necessarily, says Paul. I went to a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem Conference in Liverpool (Good plug lad) where Vince Cable was speaking. He said it was ridiculous that a cabinet minister on a six figure salary still receives the winter fuel allowance, so Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are in agreement here.
You little beauty! Turns out that Paul was the only Tory amongst the thousands at conference who had that anecdotal line. City of Liverpool Conservatives One, British Broadcasting Corporation Nil.
I'm perfectly comfortable with top rate taxpayers not receiving state benefits. This inefficient and unnecessary redistribution of wealth is inappropriate in the times in which we live. Benefits should be targeted at the most needy in society and used as a safety net, not as additional income for top rate taxpayers.
The last evening is upon us and most of the team are feeling the effects of three long days, so we decide to have a relatively quiet one and just chill out in the Hyatt for the last time. Unfortunately for me, the new Fabric Warehouse store opening in Norwich is behind schedule and I'm going to have to leave early on Wednesday morning to hurry things along (which also leads to a delay in this year's final conference blog, apologies to all).
The last day on Wednesday is dominated by firstly the Foreign Affairs and Defence session in the morning and then by the leaders speech in the afternoon.
Defence is very important to Conservatives and I believe that the defence of the United Kingdom is the first priority of any British government.
The commitment to our nuclear deterrent, "our ultimate insurance policy" is rightly reaffirmed. Our troops are thanked and rewarded for their service with extra operational allowances. Thankfully, we finally have a government which appreciates the immense sacrifices made by our armed forces and their families.
We must never forget that we are a country at war. Never.
On foreign policy William Hague delivers... well, William Hague delivers! - as always.
But the highlight of the day, if not the conference, is the leader's speech. There is inevitably a huge queue in Birmingham as the faithful patiently wait to hear the Prime Minister. Many are frustrated that the hall is far too small for the occasion. (Not a problem at ACC Liverpool!) Meanwhile in Norwich yours truly catches it on TV.
David Cameron looks and sounds like a Prime Minister who understands the mood of his Party and the mood of his country. There are no triumphant noises, no celebratory rhetoric, just a sober realisation of the difficult road which lies ahead for his government.
He opens his speech very deliberately and very humbly, saying that it is "An honour and a privilege"...to be before... "the Party that I lead, in front of the country that I love."
He praised the bravery of Nick Clegg, as both men created a strong, stable government, each putting the needs of their country before the needs of their Party. He also praised the work of the coalition, listing some of its early achievements saying "Look at what we've done in five months, imagine what we can do in five years!"
I don't believe the Prime Minister is in any way looking forward to the necessary cuts his
government will have to make. He summed it up perfectly. "I wish there was another way. I wish there was an easier way. But there is no other responsible way."
There was also a warning to his own Party and a message to the country, especially for the middle classes, with regards to cuts. The PM was very clear, saying "Those with the broadest shoulders should take their share of the load."
With this progressive and fair message of "one nation" Conservatism, David Cameron firmly planted his government's flag in the middle ground of British politics. The Conservative Party's journey to the centre is now complete.
Then of course came the rousing ending. The speech was a call for collective action and was almost one of a wartime Prime Minister. Appropriate in many ways as the last Labour Government left the nation's finances in a position not seen since the war.
Cameron finished with a crescendo, "Let's pull together." He cried. "Let's come together." He urged, "Let's work together - in the national interest."
Cameron's determined performance was greeted with the inevitable standing ovation which was well deserved. This was a speech of a man who understands the challenge ahead and is prepared to take the difficult decisions which will mend our broken country. He is the right man, in the right place, at the right time.