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Monday, 5 October 2009

Conservative Party Conference Blog: Day 1

by Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Exec.

I thought we were in Manchester not Brussels!

As day 1 draws to a close the topic that seems to have been on everyone’s lips has been the 'will they wont they' over the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. At the Radio 5 Live event this morning at Urbis, a huge amount of time was spent discussing this at the expense of some more important issues such as the economy, getting people back into work and what plans the Conservatives have for kickstarting the economy.

Whilst I'm not saying the Lisbon Treaty is unimportant, my view is that by getting sidetracked with this we are missing out on hearing more details about what the plans are for a Conservative government dealing with the unique challenges of cutting spending and balancing the books and services.

On what we have so far managed to hear there still seems to be a lot of details to emerge. Phillip Hammond MP the Shadow Secretary to the Treasury described himself as the 'man with the scalpel' not the blunt axe when it came to making cuts in spending with the emphasis very much on targeted cuts and greater efficiencies.

Chris Grayling MP, the Shadow Home Secretary admitted that the Conservatives had not seen the 'books' so were left in a difficult position of saying anything certain about fiscal policies and government departmental budgets.

David Willets MP Shadow Skills Minister said that before some of the work placements could happen – designed to remove people off the unemployment list and benefits - that there would have to be major economic stimulus to create the jobs that, to be frank, aren’t there at present. This is probably the first time I’ve heard a politician of any party actually admit to this. So despite the promise of thousands of new job opportunities you have to create them in the first place. Like money, jobs don’t grow on trees either.

No doubt more details and ideas will emerge and the meetings will get busier as the week progresses. Hopefully we will also get some clearer ideas about what policies the Conservatives have got lined up, Europe included but for me the real problems and solutions lie closer to home.

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