I have been asked by the Social Market Foundation think tank to write a preview article for their newsletter on the Conservative Party conference. You can read this article below and see the whole newletter on the Social Market Foundation's website - http://www.smf.co.uk/assets/files/Conference%20newsletter%202009%20FINAL.pdf
Looking ahead to the Conservative Party Conference – Manchester 2009
Whatever happens over the next year, we know that this will be the last Conservative conference before the general election. An eve of election conference has a special atmosphere, and we can expect that in Manchester, which will be the biggest in Conservative conference in modern times. However, the sense of anticipation in the air will not come from the prospect of an election victory, but instead an understanding of the great responsibility of preparing for Government in the most difficult economic circumstances for generations. This conference will be about what will do, not how we can win.
The Conservatives will use the conference to set out their vision of change for the country, and the part we all have to play in delivering that change. This message won’t only be directed to the candidates and activists in the Manchester Centre, but to everyone, and will be supported not just by the conference speeches and debates, but the publication of further policy papers and statements.
At the heart of David Cameron’s message as Conservative leader has been a renewed sense of national responsibility. Political leaders and Governments are expected to set the course and make the running, but we all have role to play in getting to the destination. So we can expect to hear a lot about our need as a country to live within our means, from Government to businesses, and households. Also how powers can be decentralised from Westminster and Whitehall to councils and individuals, so parents have more control over where their children can go to school, councils more say on housing and planning, and communities more influence over the priorities for local policing.
There will be much focus on David Cameron’s main address on the Thursday of the conference, an event which ever since his barnstorming leadership campaign speech in 2005 has become one of the highlights of the week. In a recent article Ted Sorensen, John F Kennedy’s speechwriter, wrote that, ‘The Presidents greatest in speechcraft are almost all the greatest in statecraft also – because speeches are not just words. They present ideas, directions and values, and the best speeches are those that get that right.’ So that will be the challenge at the end of the conference week, not just to leave the party members in good heart for the election to come, but to leave the country in no doubt that he can deliver the change they are seeking.