Sunday In The Zone

Dominic Fisher aka praguetory writes:

A conference veteran tells me that in 1997, he missed the looming presence of anti-Tory agitators who were a feature of Conservative conferences when we had been in government. After years of being out of power - when protestors at conference were little more than a minor curiosity - yesterday we saw the reversal which comes with power.

Most delegates were amused by the anti-government forces. Please note that we're not all "old Etonians". Many of the protestors wore dark clothing. So of course, I chose to wear a light suit. Forces of light and all that!

Interspersed with regional receptions, for me, Sunday focused more on mingling than policy. At the Chairmans' meeting in the morning, David Cameron and Sayeeda Warsi they appeared to be practicing some of the lines that they would later use in the main hall. Sayeeda's speech in the afternoon received rave reviews from everybody I spoke to - although I doubt she had the guts to repeat her Liam Fox joke in full glare of the media.

However, at lunchtime, I did get the chance to go to a packed out fringe event in Jury's Inn hosted by the Adam Smith Institute and brilliantly chaired by Madsen Pirie, discussing a blueprint for tax reform. Holder of the Spectator's current Parliamentarian of the Year, Douglas Carswell pointed out that ministers never speak in favour of cuts for their department and warned the audience that just because a politician wears a blue rosette that is no guarantee of their commitment to lower taxes. Richard Teather, a lecturer and academic specializing in international taxes, described the strong correlation between tax take and job creation and the worrying implications that has for the UK.

With state spending standing at 51% of GDP and an exodus of British companies to more business friendly jurisdictions, the panel supported the coalition's austerity measures. Judging by the passions it evokes, I expect that tax reform is likely to remain a hot issue.

I managed to sneak out of the Jury's Inn just ahead of the front of the protests for an afternoon of practical campaigning. Conservative Future helped us host an afternoon of leafleting in target wards. The weather put some people off, but we still managed to fill four cars.

Later on in the day, the West Midlands great and good were out in force for the Centre for Cities event in the Water Hall hosted by Mike Whitby and featuring Eric Pickles. With charming menace, Eric's setpiece speech had a clear theme. Whilst he promised to give Birmingham politicians more powers, there would also be less money.

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Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker - The Birmingham Post's political editor
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