Setting a cracking pace at the beginning of 2003, North West Conservatives held a one-day Conference at Beech Hurst in Andover, to which they invited speakers from Central office and members from neighbouring constituencies.
"John Winchcombe, Chairman of our Conservative Policy Forum, did a first rate job in planning this conference and delivering it so successfully. It was a sell-out, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and learned a lot from it."
Robert Syms, MP for Poole, and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party in charge of Planning and Strategy, explained how the Leadership was repositioning the Party near the middle of the political spectrum, as the Labour Party moved to the left; and was focussing on public services, the issue that most people were concerned about. It was also modernising the Party by broadening its base by encouraging it to communicate in a more empathetic way.He said the electorate was approaching the "tipping point" at which it would abandon Labour and look for a new home. He urged the Party to show discipline and commitment, and apply Conservative principles of freedom and choice to public services and win them over.
He was followed by another Vice-Chairman, Angela Browning MP, who, with support from three Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in LibDem held seats, outlined the strategy for winning back these seats. Richard Benyon, PPC for Newbury, George Hollingbury PPC for Winchester and Caroline Nokes PPC for Romsey explained what tactics they were using locally to help win back their seats.
Cllr Ian Carr, Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, gave a trailer of the manifesto on which he would be leading local Conservatives into the election on May 1st, promising high quality public services at an affordable price.
Winding up the conference, Sir George said there were a growing number of open goals, as the Government struggled to deliver its manifesto. While it might be too soon to launch detailed policies, there were a number of themes that should be developed.
"There should be more policemen on the beat; teachers should be freer to use their skills; the NHS should not be subject to so much detailed political control; the current system of dealing with asylum seekers is manifestly failing; taxes are going up without a corresponding increase in the quality of services. Having made these points, we should then articulate Conservative responses in a moderate and reasoned way."