What do the Tories need to do in Birmingham? The ConHome team previews the challenges
Bruce Anderson on David Cameron:
Newman said that the essence of religion is authority and obedience. Although that is a bit much to expect from Birmingham next week, authority and leadership would be adequate. The party's leading figures must provide reassurance, to those in the hall and to the wider public. Most voters are realistic. No-one is expecting to be told that a recovery is imminent. But people do want a sense that Ministers are in control and that they know where they are going. As ever, David Cameron's own contribution will be crucial. Yet again, he will have to make the speech of his life, so that by the end of the Conference, even if there is still grumbling and anxiety, he has won renewed respect.
Matthew Barrett on Boris Johnson:
This conference features a keynote speech from the most powerful directly-elected politician in the country: Boris Johnson. There has been plenty of talk over the last few years about the Cameron-Johnson rivalry, and the media certainly gives Boris' speech enough attention and hopes he says something provocative. The challenge for Boris this year, if he wants to appear to be a mature politician, is to let David Cameron take centre-stage, and not try and overshadow the whole conference. We saw a more disciplined Boris in 2011-12, his re-election year, but his challenge is to keep it up now he's safely back in office.
Nadine Dorries on winning back the base:
One of the main objectives of this conference should be to send a very loud and clear message to the activists that we love them and we want them back. Without doubt, the leadership has ignored the concerns of not only MPs, but the association members we represent. An arrogant and self-interested pursuit of policies such as Lord Reform and gay marriage has resulted in the party depending on a very thin base to turn out our vote in 2015. Our members are leaving us and going to UKIP. Clegg famously said he was sorry to his conference, Cameron should do the same - apologise to our members and then ask them to come back home.
"If a party can own the spirit of the Olympics, with its can-do mix of traditional Union Flag-waving and modern Danny Boyle-type spirit, it will gain a psychological ascendancy over its opponents. Nick Clegg' speech took in the Olympics; Ed Miliband's took place below a large Union flag. David Cameron proclaimed two years ago that this government is "In The National Interest". Last year, he decked the party tree, in Union Flag colours. This year, the conference slogan is "Britain can deliver". Cameron must capture that spirit to fight off Miliband's pitch for Tory "One Nation territory".
Jill Kirby on social policy:
Conservative-led reform of schools and welfare have been two of the coalition's success stories. Each is built on a bold and coherent narrative of rewarding work and encouraging independence; both have received broad popular support. In a Government that often struggles to demonstrate a theme or purpose, it's vital to maintain the momentum of these reforms and reassert their purpose. Conference provides a welcome opportunity to do so; even better would be to now explain how these themes can be extended across wider social issues such as family policy and care of the elderly.
Peter Hoskin on the economy:
The leadership should see this Birmingham bash as an opportunity to tell a more inspirational, human message about the public finances. For over two years now, deficit reduction has been explained in the driest of terms, mostly about interest rates and bond markets. The few more stirring arguments — such as David Cameron’s “today we spend more on debt interest than we do on running schools in England” — have been made infrequently, and left to the Liberal Democrats. Yet they, and nifty videos and graphics, are exactly what’s needed to communicate the horrible depth of our fiscal hole. Filling it in should not just be a tragic task, but a glorious aim.
Andrew Lilico on the EU:
At Conference, David Cameron and William Hague should state that developments within the EU, especially moves towards an explicit European Federation, would change the nature of our relationship with the EU. They should say that details are as yet unresolved, but the intention appears to be to move rapidly towards a new Treaty from 2014 onwards. They should say that once details of this new Treaty are clearer, in the next Parliament, it would be time to seek fresh consent from the British people in a referendum. They should say they would seek to achieve a consensus with other parties about the most appropriate wording of that referendum’s question.
Tim Montgomerie on the need for seriousness:
Of all the various splits in politics – right versus left, moderniser versus traditionalist, north versus south, rich versus poor, young versus old etc etc etc – the one that the Conservatives need to judge most expertly is to get on the grown up side of ‘serious versus trivial’. Ed Miliband did well last week in terms of inclusive rhetoric and ideological pitch. He was more confident and more persuasive than any of us expected. But did he offer solutions that matched the challenges of our time? He didn’t even begin to. The Conservative Party needs to look like it’s the grown up party in British politics. It must avoid childish attacks on our opponents. Instead the party – and the Prime Minister in particular - must paint a big picture of what Britain will look like after far-reaching reforms to the tax system, pension, schools and welfare are completed and then extended.