Chris Kerr: Conservative Party Conference 2012 diary - Day Two
Day two of the Conservative Party Conference here in Birmingham, and it's matching up to expectations. It has been a day of big announcements, particularly by the Chancellor, George Osborne.
The first event I went to was on Sunday evening, and this was hosted by ResPublica and CoreCities. The speakers included Greg Clark MP and scouser Phillip Blond (ResPublica).
Liverpool was used as an encouraging example of how the City Deal is working, and the importance of other great cities in the UK and how they should follow the lead of Liverpool.
The role of the new Elected Mayoral model was thoroughly discussed, and how a central figurehead for our major cities is essential for increased competitiveness, not only within the UK but with the rest of the world.
Last night Liverpool Conservatives enjoyed the North of England Reception with fellow Conservative members. Those who say there are no Tories in the North would be proved wrong!
The first of the speakers was David Cameron. The Prime Minister emphasised that the number of Northern Conservative MPs doubled at the last general election.
Half an hour later, possibly the best known Northern Conservative William Hague arrived. I think he feels most at home amongst northern Tories! His short speech was littered with amusing anecdotes and was certainly a highlight of the evening.
I arrived at the ICC at around 9am on Monday morning and had a chat with staff on the Liverpool 2 development stand about their plans and the possible economic benefits for the city region. I think we'd all like to see more ships on the Mersey and the world trading with Liverpool again!
A few minutes later I walked past again to see William Hague in deep conversation with the Liverpool 2 team; clearly interested in what the benefits will be for the city region.
I then headed to the Symphony Hall to listen to the straight-talking Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin. He announced that lorries from abroad will now be charged when using British roads, making it fairer for British motorists paying road tax. The increased revenue raised from the charge will be invested into repairing Britain's roads, which he announced would be getting an extra £170m worth of investment.
The Transport Minister also focused on air travel to improve the UK's global competitiveness, and of course, the new high speed rail network, known as HS2, which he is keen to see go ahead.
We then knew the Chancellor was about to make his speech when David Cameron took his seat just across the aisle from the Liverpool Conservative team. George Osborne was then greeted with enthusiastic cheers as he took to the podium.
The Chancellor's main message was that the economy is healing. Unfortunately, this is taking longer than expected, but this is mainly because the problem left by Labour was deeper than expected.
He listed some of the government's achievements including a 25% reduction in the deficit and one million new private sector jobs since the Government came into office - these are fantastic achievements which should not be forgotten.
George Osborne was keen to make the point that those people with the most should contribute the most.
He was clear that a benefits cap is right. Nobody should earn more out of work than the average person in work. Labour incredibly voted against this! The Chancellor pledged to work on the side of hard-working people and insisted that hard work should be rewarded.
He said that the Conservative Party is the One Nation party, and Labour does not become a One Nation Party just because Ed Miliband kept repeating the words throughout his conference speech.
Interestingly, he said, Ed Miliband didn't mention the word "deficit" once! - I wonder why?
Osborne also announced a new share scheme for SMEs, giving employees the chance to gain a stake in their work without facing capital gains tax.
The Chancellor was also upbeat about the international standing of the British economy. He claimed that abroad, Britain, with its competitive taxes rates, low interest rates and low inflation is seen as a great example of the solution to the global economic downturn, not part of the problem as it was under Labour.
The Chancellor also said that the Treasury would be coming down hard on tax evasion, making tax avoidance more and more difficult. This will enable further tax reductions for the lowest earners in the future.
Other highlights of George Osborne's record at No 11 include:
- An income tax cut for 25 million people
- Additional help for people wanting to start their own business
- Extending the 'FirstBuy' Scheme to help first time buyers
- Increased discounts for 'Right to Buy' council and housing association homes
- Each year 450,000 people starting apprenticeships
- Fuel duty 10p a litre less than it would have been under Labour
- Council tax frozen for 3 years
- More good school places due to the investment and reform in education
There is no simple solution to the mess that Labour left behind; this is an enormous task that our future prosperity will depend upon, but it seems that the government's plan is working.
Later in the day we went to a very positive Policy Exchange event about Conservatives in the North. In the evening I went to a Conservative Future event for a little while, and followed that spending time with the Liverpool Conservative team at our annual conference dinner.
All in all, it's been a great start to Conference and I genuinely feel that the Conservatives are working for the country in order to secure a better future. The Conservatives really are the true One Nation party, and are "Delivering for Britain".
Chris Kerr is the Deputy Chairman (Political) of the City of Liverpool Conservatives and was the Conservative Party candidate in Mossley Hill ward in the Liverpool City Council elections in 2012.