Sir George reports back from Blackpool
4 Oct 2005
This year's Party Conference was unlike any I have attended before, for two reasons. First, it had one simple theme - who should be the next Leader? And, second, authority lay not with those on the platform; but with those in the hall.
This was political Big Brother - and a game everyone could join in on. Complex details of policy which have dogged previous conferences were swept aside - what we were doing was assessing the leadership credentials of five candidates.
Yes, one of them fell below expectation. In truth, David Davis' speech was not as bad as the critics claimed - but more worrying, he did not perform as well as he should have at all the fringe events as well. And while one can forgive the absence of oratorical skills from the Conference platform, one is less forgiving about the content of the speech, which he must have had some time to think about.
I enjoyed Malcolm Rifkind's speech - a classic conference performance delivered without notes and with jokes, and a reminder of what a class act he is. His talents will be needed on the front bench in the next few years - whoever wins will not be able to deal with Blair and Brown on his own - and I hope he withdraws with honour at this stage of the contest.
David Cameron's speech was brilliant - and one forgets that this was his first platform speech at a party conference. To entrust it to memory was a brave decision and it paid off. He needs to put some flesh on the bones of his political philosophy and to convince the media that he will stand up to the dinosaurs in the party - but if he wins, I would be more than happy. He also did well at a fringe meeting with Andrew Rawnsley, when more of his personality came over.
He was followed by Ken Clarke, who remains my preferred choice. Polls show that David Cameron may now be the favourite with Party members; but after the conference, Ken remains the preferred candidate amongst non-Tory supporters -those whom we need to vote for us if we are to win. Ken's confidence and authority were re-assuring, and the Party at Blackpool appeared to be apologising for not having supported him last time. He could give David Cameron the cover he needs to develop during this Parliament, and David could be a potential successor to Ken as Prime Minister.
Liam Fox pitched for the delegates vote and told them what they wanted to hear. Liam would consolidate the votes we are already getting but I wonder if he would get back the extra votes we need; but he had a good week.
What was good about the conference was the mood; and the reaction of the Press. They agreed we had a good conference, that we were getting our act together and that we had some first class candidates.
Whoever wins, the Party needs to pull behind him and then start focussing on taking on the Government.
Sir George, Margaret Milner Williams, Emma Clarke and David Kirk at Mammas Restaurant in Blackpool
Sir George, Margaret Milner Williams, Emma Clarke and David Kirk at Mammas Restaurant in Blackpool
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015