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21 People To Watch As Next Week’s Conservative Conference Looms

Last Updated: Friday, September 26th, 2014

1. Those two MP defectors to UKIP – if, of course, they exist at all.  If so, they will presumably turn up on Saturday evening.  If they don’t, the media will treat this as a further sign that the Party isn’t grown-up, since it talked but didn’t deliver.
 
2. George Osborne. The Conservative election strategy is that a growing economy will return David Cameron to Downing Street.  The Chancellor must convince floating voters in those Midlands and Northern marginals that the recovery is real and for them.

3. Rory Stewart. The Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, former governor of an Iraq province, award-winning author and friend of the Prince of Wales is an important voice in the debate about how best to deal with ISIS, Iraq and Syria.

4. Sayeeda Warsi.  Will the former “Senior Minister of State”, who resigned over Government policy on Gaza, turn up and cause trouble for the leadership?  She has promised no kiss and tell memoir – but that doesn’t rule out publication of the diary that she hasn’t denied keeping while in office.

5. Lord Ashcroft.  In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davis, I would say that, wouldn’t I?  But the proprietor of ConservativeHome will have more polling to present on Sunday afternoon, and it will be nervously awaited by Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

6. John Redwood.  The veteran MP, former Cabinet member and two-times leadership contender has made the running on an English Parliament with English Ministers.  He may carry less weight with the 2010 intake, but he is bound to push the cause again this week.

7. Michael Gove.  The new Chief Whip is breaking all Francis Urquhart-type rules associated with the post.  Whether making statements, briefing stories or charming colleagues, he carries a weight with David Cameron that none of his predecessor has. Watch for a conference speech.

8. Liam Fox.  The former Defence Secretary was to return to Cabinet, it was briefed last summer.  In the end, he was offered a junior post – and not by the Prime Minister directly.  He wasn’t best pleased, and will make a major address at a ConservativeHome event on Tuesday.

9. Steve Hilton.  He’s back!  The man who dreamt up the Big Society, strived to drive through public service reform and eventually quit for California has returned, briefly – and is working on the Prime Minister’s conference speech.  Old acquaintance hasn’t been forgot.

10. Ruth Davidson.  The leader of the Scottish Conservatives played a blinder during the referendum campaign, winning plaudits from left as well as right.  She will doubtless get star billing at conference.  Davidson would be future national leadership material were she based south of the border.

11. Grant Shapps.  The Party Chairman looks to have good news to announce about computers, membership, conference attendance and CCHQ’s campaigning programme for marginal seats, Team 2015.  ConservativeHome will have more detail over the weekend.

12. Lord Feldman. The other Party Chairman (yes, there are two of them) is the man who has ensured that the Conservatives will fight the next election without any debt. Consequently, Cameron is deeply in his – whatever Feldman said or didn’t say to two journalists about “swivel-eyed” Party activists.

13. Michael Fallon. The Defence Secretary has the tricky task of persuading a conference that will be thinking back to the Iraq War of 2003 that it will all be different this time.  Some will be sceptical.  His speech and its reception will be watched closely.

14. Owen Paterson.  Unlike Fox, Paterson was removed from the Cabinet this summer. Like him, he is furious at his treatment.  He has warned that he is “bloody well not going away”, and will be speaking at a ConservativeHome fringe event on Tuesday.

15. Theresa May.  The Home Secretary and aspirant leader will be keeping her head down.  She’s doing a few fringe meetings this week – and will doubtless want to say something about fighting modern slavery, a cause close to her heart – but won’t want to make any waves.

16. Boris Johnson. The newly-selected Conservative candidate for Uxbridge will doubtless seek a way of squaring loyalty to Cameron with his long-running leadership campaign, both in his speech to the conference proper and at ConservativeHome’s Rally for Victory.

17. Graham Brady.  The relationship between Cameron and the Chairman of the 1922 Committee are tense, but the former needs the latter after the latest setback to his relationship with his Party – Downing Street’s handling of the Scottish referendum campaign.

18. Sajid Javid.  The Culture Secretary is seen as outside runner for the leadership if the Conservatives lose next year.  His back story is a dream one for the Tories – immigrant background, state school, self-made success, real-world experience. Watch him.

19. Lynton Crosby.  The campaign-hardened Australian has imposed shape and discipline on what was, before his arrival, a wavering Conservative operation.  Will his relentless focus on leadership, the economy, welfare and security be enough over the next six months or so?

20. Chris Grayling. What will the Tories do about the European Court of Human Rights? If the Justice Secretary has no announcement to make, it will suggest that there is no internal party agreement at the top over whether to reform Britain’s membership or, as Theresa May now favours, leave outright.

21. And finally…the Prime Minister himself.  He must square seeking to persuade the country that he’s different from much of his party with simultaneously persuading his party that he’s really one of them.  The stakes are higher than ever for him in his last pre-election conference speech.

By Paul Goodman

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Peter Hoskin:  Cameron’s conference speeches tell the sad story of his leadership
“You may disagree with my politics, and be left thinking: so what? Isn’t Cameron right about housing benefit claims? And who cares about all that green crap and BS? But this isn’t just a matter of agreement. It’s a matter of conviction. Look back at that list that Cameron once totted up: family, community, society, the NHS, the environment – “these are the things that matter most to me.” He used to talk about them all of the time; now he talks about them infrequently, if at all. Do they not matter to him now? Did they ever really matter to him? If the Prime Minister is not sure of his beliefs, few people will believe in him. And if he doesn’t want to take it from me, how about from himself? It was Cameron who said, in his conference speech of 2006, that “real substance… it’s about character, judgment and consistency.” Draw a line under that last word. Italicise that last word. Type it in bold. Real substance is about consistency. If only that was still part of the Prime Minister’s personal lexicon.” Read more: http://is.gd/nvkbr5

Paul Goodman: The Commons must ask some hard questions tomorrow about bombing Iraq
“Here are some lines of enquiry. How likely is British bombing of Iraq to achieve anything – other than to make us feel that we are somehow hitting back against “Jihadi John”?  Is ISIS deliberately provoking  western-led bombings, in order to establish itself as the champion of the “Arab Street”, and if so are we flying into a trap?  Isn’t bombing more likely to work if it has the support of special forces on the ground, working in conjunction with local forces, even if the mass use of ground troops is (rightly) ruled out? Before the original invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon was convinced that, as locals greeted American troops, “flowers would be stuck on the end of rifles”, according to Admiral Lord Boyce.  Ambitions since have grown more modest.  When British planes fly to Iraq, as they surely soon will, will they really be doing more than “mowing the grass”?” Read more: http://is.gd/WUmtOg

Natalie Elphicke: The dangers of Miliband’s Mansion Tax
“The outcome: we could all pay more income based taxes on property on an annual basis – whether or not people are earning the income to pay for them. At the moment we primarily tax property as a capital asset: on transfer of ownership, on death, when realised for care home and other costs. To tax a capital asset on an income basis is to further tax the accumulation of individual wealth during a lifetime. Labour’s Mansion Tax could end up as 500 pages of legislation that would not just consume large amounts of Government energy better spent elsewhere, it would fail to raise the amount expected because of mass avoidance and creative financial instruments. This tax would be deeply harmful to the property industry, to construction, to jobs, money and economic growth. Far from hurting rich people, it would harm everyone.” Read more: http://is.gd/HGuUCR

Mark Wallace: Balls sings a song of savings, does a dance of deficit reduction, then leaves the stage to spend, spend, spend  “There’s the awkward fact that Balls has already promised to spend the money from just one of his new taxes at least eleven times over – splashing the same cash over and over again on every shiny goody he and his colleagues can imagine. So voters have a choice of which Shadow Chancellor to believe in. The one on stage today, dressed as a stern, responsible guardian of the taxpayer, singing ditties about “difficult decisions”, or the one that will emerge from his dressing room five minutes after the act is over, gripping the public credit card tightly in his hand and heading straight out to spend, spend, spend. After 13 years of Labour profligacy, and four years of them in Opposition denying they did anything wrong, today’s one-off performance won’t do anything to dispel the electorate’s doubts.” Read more: http://is.gd/7HpYlk
Nadhim Zahawi MP: No more inertia. We need English Votes for English Laws as soon as possible.
“Some are already raising questions about the timetable for reform. They forget that kicking the can down the road is exactly how we ended up with unequal treatment for England in the first place. Constitutional reform is always difficult. Compared to the latest foreign policy crisis, or the pressure to deliver jobs, it will never be seen as an immediate priority. But this can no longer justify inertia. In the economic arena we’ve shown what can be achieved if you have a plan and stick to it – we must take the same decisive approach to the English Question. There’s a valuable debate to be had about further powers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yet first and foremost, we must look at English votes for English laws. Parliament has long voted on bills which apply to England (or England and Wales) only; it’s high time we reviewed the role of MPs who don’t have a personal stake in the legislative process.” Read more: http://is.gd/bRDO3M

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