Monday’s busy schedule of fringe events began with a discussion on the Government’s aviation policy, hosted by the Airport Operators Associaiton and ABTA. The panel showed a great deal of interest in the talk of a Thames estuary airport – often called Boris Island after the scheme’s champion the Mayor of London – given that expansion at Heathrow has been ruled out by the Government.
Naturally, almost everyone at conference headed for the main hall to see George Osborne deliver his speech, which featured the heavily trailed announcement that the Government will provide funds to freeze council tax in the next financial year. Given how central the economy is to the political debate it was unsurprising to see the Chancellor staunchly defend the Government’s economic policies and attack the opposition for their calls to increase spending.
Yet while Osborne directed a great deal of criticism towards Labour, and in particular Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, he made a point of expressing his thanks to his Lib Dem colleagues – especially Danny Alexander. A sign perhaps that the Conservative Party is keen to avoid using its conference as an opportunity to attack their coalition partners.
Also of interest was a Policy Exchange event involving four new Conservative MPs – George Eustice, Claire Perry, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart. Much has been written about the fact that this new intake of Conservative MPs is the largest since the second world war, and after 16 months in Parliament it was interesting to see just where some of these new MPs see the Conservative Party heading over the next few years.
In the afternoon, Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond made an impassioned defence of the Government’s High Speed Rail project. Hammond went to some lengths to argue that the key factor driving the decision was not journey time but capacity, stating that the choice was not between HS2 or nothing but between HS2 and a new ‘low speed line’ similar to those we have now.
The evening saw London Mayor Boris Johnson, Prime Minister David Cameron and Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi address a meeting of London and South East Conservatives. The London Mayoral contest next year – which looks likely to be a two-horse race between Boris and Labour’s Ken Livingstone – is set to be the biggest electoral test of 2012 for the Government.
The hectic schedule of events continued right into the night with a well-attended reception hosted by the High Commission for Pakistan and an aviation policy reception hosted by Emirates, Manchester Airport and Consevative Home, before delegates finally began to head back to their hotels to get some sleep before another busy day of events tom
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
Latest posts by Jake Rigg (see all)
- Keene responds to the Budget - July 8, 2015
- The Northern Powerhouse & Pre-Budget Briefing - July 6, 2015
- The emergence of a green superpower on the back of G7 climate deal - June 16, 2015