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Eric Pickles warns the party against triumphalism

Eric Pickles Speaking exclusively to ConservativeHome at the beginning of the party conference, party chairman Eric Pickles has urged activists not be complacent or triumphalist, despite the party's good standings in the polls. He said that given the less than successful Lib Dem and Labour conferences there could be a temptation to "sit back and relax and assume everything is going to work out OK" - but that this was not on.

"I shall be speaking to conference as a whole about triumphalism. On an obvious level, we need 117 seats to get a majority and that requires a swing greater than Margaret Thatcher achieved. I think Lord Kinnock was right last week when he said the deal wasn't done between us and the electors."

But there was another reason not be triumphalist too:

"We have such a daunting task ahead in terms of dealing with the deficit, unemployment and so on, there's nothing triumphalist about that. Actually, it's a humbling task if we are given the trust to do that, and people will expect us to go about it in a moderate and reasonable way."

These comments echoed an address Mr Pickles gave to CCHQ employees and MPs' staff last week, in which he also urged them to be aware that political opponents could be looking for opportunities to embarrass the party. He noted that recording equipment could be extremely well hidden these days:

"We live in a world where the slightest malfraction can appear on YouTube and anybody can overnight become 'a top Tory' by saying something daft...  You don't want to be the one who makes a mistake, in a moment of having fun with your chums... people may be goading you to say something stupid."

He also emphasised that with a series of policy announcements coming out over the week, people will have "a very clear idea by the end of the week" of how the party wants to change the country, especially in terms of reversing decline in the poorest communities:

"I get particularly irked when you listen to Harriet Harman going on about those estates that have been run down and how they're going to tackle poverty - yet they've had 12 years and they've done nothing - and increasing dependency is not going to do the trick... We are going to be announcing some pretty clear stuff. George [Osborne] is going to be specific - not line by line scrutiny - but we're going to give people a very clear idea of where we're going."

He said that the party needed to address the issue of debt, which was ignored at Labour conference, and that we should especially look out for announcements on employment and more on empowering citizens in the "post-bureaucratic age".

As to which are the most important sessions in the main hall, he urged people to "make sure you're tuned in for George Osborne, Michael Gove and Theresa May".

Mr Pickles expressed his delight at the increase in interest in conference this year, with 12,000 people attending - a couple of thousand up on last year - and that there is a big increase in the number of exhibitors and fringe meetings. There is a also a retail mall at the conference for the first time.

One thing to look out for is all the new party-branded merchandise, including T-Shirts, ties and - on a practical level - delivery bags for leaflets. The party chairman also advised us to look out for the Gordon Brown fridge magnets...

Jonathan Isaby


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