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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
** Tory Conference Edition ** "Sink Or Swim" ** 10 Things To Watch Out For In The Speech ** Exit Boris ** Who'll Follow Dave? ** Too Rich For Our Own Good? ** The 'Bang 'Em Up' Brigade ** "Sponge Bob" Gove ** 'Michael Green' Is Safe ** Growing Pains ** Ello Govna ** Bring On The Referendum! ** Is It Time To Panic Yet, Barry? ** Brits For Romney **


It may have been David Cameron's birthday yesterday but it's his big day today - it's Conference Speech Day! Having watched Ed Miliband deliver a bravura notes-free performance in Manchester last week, the Tory leader will be under much pressure - from the media and fellow Conservatives - to raise his game and seize back the political agenda from the Labour Party.

His aides have been busy briefing the papers. "Cameron: it's sink or swim for Britain," says the splash headline in the Telegraph. The nation will either "sink or swim" in the economic crisis, the PM will say, as ministers face a choice of either "do or decline". The Sun goes with "sink or swim" on its front page; the Times goes with "do or decline" - good to see our leading newspapers sharing the briefing lines so neatly and equitably.

The speech, of course, will have the expected 'personal bits'. There will be a reference to his late father Ian; Cameron will outline how his father's commitment to providing for his family despite his disability meant his life was "not a hard luck story, but a hard work story". Cameron will say he isn't "complicated" (er, who said he was?).

The Tory leader will attempt to re-appropriate the Tories' 'One Nation' label back from Ed 'I said it 46 times in my speech' Miliband:

"My mission from the day I became leader was, yes, to show the Conservative Party is for everyone: North or South, black or white, straight or gay."

The "Big Society", believe it or not, will make a comeback:

"But above all to show that Conservative methods are not just the way we grow a strong economy, but the way we build a big society."

So too will 'compassionate conservatism':

"Because it's not enough to know our ideas are right. We've got to explain why they are compassionate too."

The Prime Minister's speech is expected to be a sober affair (a BBC reporter on the Today programme just compared it to Stanley Baldwin's 1932 speech which, of course, we all so fondly and vividly remember!), with Cameron also referring to a "global race" and an "hour of reckoning" for Great Britain. Serious stuff.

But will it work? Will it help him transform his own image and his party's standing in the polls? Can a single speech end the discontent and grumbling on the Tory backbenches? I guess we'll find out in a few hours...


From the Lib Dems to Plebgate, from the g-word to Ed Balls, my colleague Ned Simons has put together a list of the ten things to look out for in the prime minister's speech today.


He came, he saw, he conquered. He was also - let's be honest - a bit boring. The Blond One may have dominated this Conservative party conference in Birmingham but he was on good behaviour throughout (boo!) - there were no major gaffes and he didn't stick the knife into the prime minister (have the two done a deal on airports, perhaps?) as some disgruntled Tories had kinda hoped he might. Cameron, nonetheless, knows there's a very popular Conservative figure waiting in the wings should he fail to turn things round in the next year or two. The mayor of London is a larger-than-life figure who proved with his conference speech yesterday that he has that rare ability to speak beyond the conference hall, to the country at large, with passion and, of course, wit.

I mean, which other politician could get away with calling David Cameron a "broom" and Michael Gove a "J-cloth" in a major, televised speech? Who else could make gags about dancing "Gangnam style" with the prime minister? Boris may have left Birmingham but he isn't going anywhere. (On a side note, Boris' former editor Max Hastings announces on the front of the Mail: "If he ever becomes PM, I'm on the first plane out of Britain").


Talking of leadership plots, which Tories could end up replacing David Cameron come 2015? The HuffPost UK has put together a list of the top ten serious (and not-so-serious!) candidates.


David Cameron's former press secretary, George Eustice, now Tory MP for Camborne and Redruth, had a pretty strong warning for his former boss at a fringe meeting last night:

"Labour's attack that we are the party of the rich has has some success, they have managed to get some traction... I think that's quite damaging, if we go into the next election with people saying or feeling we're party of the rich that's going to be a major problem for us."


"Tough" justice secretary Chris Grayling's 'attack burglars' speech yesterday was bolstered by a semi-humorous intervention from Damian Green. The new policing minister told the conference hall:

"I'm a minister in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice and part of my job is to help the two departments work smoothly together. In previous times both Theresa and Ken used to point out how well they worked together: Theresa locked them up and Ken let them out. Under the new regime I discover it's a bit different: Theresa locks them up and Chris throws away the key."

Boom bloody boom...


Education secretary Michael Gove turned up for his big conference speech yesterday in a new pair of glasses. The Mail compares Gove-in-specs to Ronnie Barker, Austin Powers and a young Deirdre Barlow, while the HuffPost UK went with, ahem, SpongeBob SquarePants.


The ASA says Grant Shapps is in the clear.


Watch this video of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard slam the leader of the country's opposition as a "sexist". How many world leaders do you know who've used the phrases "ditch the witch" and "man's bitch" on the floor of the legislature?


Is the double-dip over? It's not official yet but the influential National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) says, in the words of the Telegraph headline, that "the UK economy is out of recession". David Cameron and George Osborne must have done cartwheels in their Birmingham hotel rooms upon discovering yesterday that, according to the NIESR, the economy grew 0.8% in the quarter to the end of September.

But the NIESR also said that the better-than-expected figures were partly due to the Olympics boost and that it expected economic growth to be "at a significantly slower pace in the coming quarters" and that the "period of [economic] depression was likely to continue for some time". Oh.

Plus, as the Independent reports: "The manufacturing sector output shrank 1.1 per cent in August – twice the rate of contraction than has been predicted by analysts...And the bad news did not stop there for the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Coalition Government as the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK trade gap in goods with the rest of the world shot up from £2.5bn to £9.8bn in August." Oh dear.

George Osborne's former friends at the IMF said yesterday they expect the UK economy to shrink by 0.4% this year. Ouch.


Those Lib Dems are ambitious these days, aren't they? According to the Guardian, a Lib Dem MEP - Sharon Bowles - has "joined the race to succeed Sir Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England, saying she had applied for the £302,000-a-year role after encouragement from 'people in London'." Bowles, who chairs the European parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, has no background in economics (which, let's face it, might be a good thing given the recent record of most economists...!)

Personally I'd go for Adair Turner, the FSA chair and ex-CBI boss, as the best man to replace King but the clear favourite is the current deputy governor, Paul Tucker, despite the latter's failure to stop the Libor rate-setting scandal and all those chummy emails to Bob Diamond.

I'm told that the Indian prisoner who applied after spotting an ad for the job in the Economist is not in the running...


According to the Sun, "an historic deal has been struck on a single 'yes or no' question in Scotland's independence referendum, it emerged last night.

The breakthrough comes ahead of crunch talks between Alex Salmond and David Cameron, set to take place in Edinburgh on Monday.

Last night Tory Scotland Office Minister David Mundell, below, said in a TV interview that voters would face a 'yes or no question' on whether to quit the UK.

It's also expected the agreement will allow 16-year-olds to vote in the referendum."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph's Scottish edition says that the Tory leader is expected to tell his conference today "that Alex Salmond was the 'one person' upset at the sight of Team GB's Olympic medal winners wrapping themselves in the Union flag".

Bring on the referendum, eh?


From the Independent:

"Shaking up the race is a Pew Research Center poll released on Monday that showed a huge post-debate swing of 12 points for Mr Romney, putting him four points ahead of the President nationally by 49 per cent to 45 per cent. A poll by ARG last night showed him taking a one-point lead in Ohio and overtaking Mr Obama in Colorado."

Uh-oh! The Obama campaign's awful 'Big Bird' attack ad on Romney hasn't helped them much, either. Lucky there's still two presidential debates to go, eh?

"Democrats panic as race tightens up," says the headline the Daily Mail. My money, however, is still on Barry winning this thing come November 2nd.


Acording to Politico, Paul Ryan has done 197 interviews since August. Joe Biden has done 1.


Did you know about Mitt's relatives in Barrow-and-Furness? No? Neither did I...


The Red Cross in Spain is making its first appeal for funds to help the country's 300,000 most vulnerable people. Yet another austerity-hit, debt-ridden European country heads for developing-world status...


"[P]robably the best government on a fiscal basis since the war" - Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng's rather positive description of the 1997-2001 Blair administration at a fringe meeting his free-market manifesto, 'Britannia Unchained' (or, as Guardian blogger Paul Owen put it, 'Britannia Unhinged').


From the latest TNS-BMRB poll:

Labour 44
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 8

This would give Labour a majority of 126.


@DAaronovitch So now the government wants householders to be able to use unreasonable force against people they think are intruders. Woof to the whistle.

@ShippersUnbound Can you hear that sigh of relief? It's birthday boy Dave being told Boris has finally left the building #cpc12

@JonAshworth I wonder if Cameron will remind us today that borrowing and debt are rising under him? And that the economy is smaller than a year ago?


Denis MacShane, writing in the FT, says: "Hooray for Boris, a one man opposition".

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "In a climate of insecurity, Mr Cameron cannot win by adopting the politics of fear, veiled in the threadbare tatters of compassion."

Dominic Raab MP, writing in the Guardian, says: "Global competition means Britain must up its game, otherwise decline beckons and falling living standards risk becoming permanent."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (, Chris Wimpress ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol
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