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Cameron focuses on NHS at start of his "no turning back" Conference

By Tim Montgomerie
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Abortion: Day one of the Downing Street grid for party conference week did not have "abortion row" written on it but that's what Cameron has got. New Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has repeated his view that abortion should be restricted to a 12 week limit. This is what he has supported and voted for in the past. He has repeated that view in an interview with this morning's Times (£). The Today programme is leading on the issue this morning. I can hear the groaning from inside Number 10.

NHS: What Team Cameron wanted the media to be focused upon was Cameron's restatement of his commitment to the NHS. At a Tory Conference six years ago, Mr Cameron - seeking to emulate Tony Blair - suggested that his priorities were not three words but three letters: N-H-S. In opposition he erased Labour's advantage on the NHS. It was probably the Tory modernisers' single biggest political accomplishment. All that has sadly been reversed because of the NHS Bill controversy. In the start of a fightback Mr Cameron writes for the Daily Mail, restating his personal commitment to the health service's values and also promising a new £140 million fund to tackle the red tape that entangles nurses and doctors. The 'NHyes' campaign is about to be relaunched by the party.

Europe: Tory supporters wanting a more Eurosceptic party leadership in Birmingham look likely to be disappointed. The Foreign Secretary gives an interview to The Daily Telegraph in which he appears to downplay the possibility of a referendum on Britain's future relationship with the EU. He implies that the "fresh consent" referred to by David Cameron last week could easily mean a general election mandate. "I haven’t seen anything as Foreign Secretary that shows we should be leaving the European Union,” Mr Hague tells the newspaper. “I see many difficulties, I deal with hundreds of them every day but I support being in the single market …I remain a supporter of our membership of the EU.”

Energy and unions: Activists and newspapers looking for red meat may have to wait until later in the week when encouragement is likely to be given to the exploitation of shale gas. The Chancellor George Osborne is known to be an enthusiast for what many see as a game changer for the energy industry. Other red meat comes from Francis Maude. The Cabinet Office minister will announce a crackdown on civil servants undertaking trade union work. 0.26% of the current Whitehall pay bill is lost to trade union-related activity. Mr Maude will cap that at 0.1%.

Economy: The overall message of the Conference though looks set to be almost Thatcheresque. Michael Fallon tells the FT that this is a Coalition and a Prime Minister who are not for turning. “I think we should all get behind the prime minister,” Mr Fallon tells the newspaper: “He and the chancellor have stuck to their task, just as Margaret Thatcher did in the early 80s. There were plenty of siren voices urging her to change course and she didn’t.”

> Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling are some of the stars of ConHome's Tory fringe programme.


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