With apologies to any Mancunians in Thanet reading this, but I report from the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. As ever, it’s a few degrees cooler, wetter and greyer than our own East Kent micro-climate and as we walk into conference past the usual anti-campaigners shouting ‘Tory scum’, projectiles being thrown at Ministers and having heard of effigies on bridges with a hangman’s noose, labelled ‘Hang a Tory’, it does make me wonder why we keep coming back. On the weather point, and this point alone, Labour has got something right in deciding to hold its conference in balmy Brighton, but doubtless the new ugly face of increasingly violent and threatening Labour supporters would try to stop debate wherever we decided to go.
I am sure for many, the annual conference season is a bit of a bore. Labour’s conference oozed more ‘free-stuff’ and with it huge increases in public spending and debt to the tune of £300 billion with little illumination as to how it might be paid for, but it is sure to be younger generations and those yet unborn who will. We Conservatives are discussing in depth the issues of Brexit, public finances and how we can ensure that the Millennial generation can be part of the property owning democracy.
Brexit is dominating most events here, I spoke at a panel event on immigration post-Brexit. Brexit on local government, Brexit on education, Brexit on health; the topic is correctly being discussed in huge detail in every corner of the conference area and so it should. The PM’s Florence speech dominated headlines a couple of weeks ago: our offer to the EU is generous, friendly and ambitious but it is becoming increasingly clear that we are being played for fools. From my viewpoint it seems that the EU negotiators are behaving in a most appalling manner. We must consider very carefully over the next few weeks whether the air fare of our negotiating team in its regular jaunts to Brussels represents value for money, or whether we’d be better served spending the time and effort speaking with international friends keen to progress the UK’s global opportunities.
Constituency work progresses as ever; it is always pleasing to hear the high regard in which my staff are held by constituents. Between my Westminster and constituency team and of course myself, we meet the challenge of helping across a massive variety of issues from housing to visas, regeneration to planning. Back to normal business as we return to Parliament next week.