5 Oct 2011

LIVE BLOG: Conservative Party conference in Manchester

The Conservatives round off conference season with their annual gathering in Manchester. Follow the live blog for latest updates, video and comment from the Channel 4 News team.

“Let’s show the world some fight”, the Prime Minister told his party, closing a keynote speech that focused on leadership and pulling together to “lead Britain to better days“. Chancellor George Osborne said his speech was “absolutely what the country needs at the moment”, adding: “It absolutely struck the right note.” Home Secretary Theresa May, who yesterday was at the centre of a furore over spurious claims made in her speech, said: “It was brilliant, really grasping the spirit of Great Britain and full of leadership.”

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke brushed off Mr Cameron’s gag that he had ordered Mr Clarke to read Crime And Punishment twice.
Mr Clarke said: “He made a couple of reasonable jokes about me. I would be rather annoyed if he had forgotten me, but then I’m not easy to forget in government.”

Meanwhile, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Brendan Barber accused Mr Cameron of spouting hot air. Mr Barber said: “If the Prime Minister really felt the nation’s pain, he would change course. Our economic difficulties have gone well past the point where can-do optimism can make a difference. We need policies for jobs and growth and help for families suffering the biggest fall in living standards in a generation.”

But Federation of Small Businesses chairman John Walker welcomed the Prime Minister’s “vision of a deregulated economy connected by high-speed broadband where real-life entrepreneurs are free to thrive”. Though he added: “We need to see clear action to match the rhetoric.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general John Longworth said: “Businesses need continuous reassurance that there is a plan for fiscal stability and a clear road map which will steer us towards the sunlit uplands and beyond.

“Business will welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to cutting red tape, and to get credit flowing to small companies. For too long, these obstacles have hampered companies’ ability to focus on wealth creation and jobs, acting as a distraction and a drag anchor.”

FactCheck: ‘The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts’
Advance drafts of David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative party conference contained a curious piece of advice.
Read more: Cameron hard to credit on consumer debt

On the final day of Conference, Mr Cameron called on Britons to deal with their debt – ride out the economic storm by paying off credit cards and managing budgets. That’s after a morning of defence talks from Liam Fox and William Hague.

Gary Gibbon blog: Lobbying for changes to the PM’s big speech
No. 10 was busy last night trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid the “cut your credit card up” headlines previewing the PM’s speech here this afternoon. The whole point of the speech was to convey some optimism about the future and you’ll hear all of that later. So it shows “naivety”, more than one minister said to me last night, that the speechwriters inserted lines like “deal with your debts” and “households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.”
Read more here

And in case you missed it last night, Hugh Grant told Jon Snow that he “didn’t buy” the Prime Minister’s tough talk on the media. The actor, speaking to Channel 4 News just before his first meeting with the PM, told us he was looking for a geniune appetite for reform from the Tories. Read more here

Join the conversation in the live blog window below, featuring all the updates and video from Manchester or follow us on Twitter with @c4politics tweeting all the main speeches, @FactCheck keeping an eye out for spurious claims, and the rest of the team on the ground @jonsnowC4 @krishgm @MichaelLCrick @GaryGibbonBlog. You can also check us out on Facebook

Conservative Party conference – add your voice

Tuesday 4 October

David Cameron was in the hot seat with Jon Snow earlier today, insisting that he didn’t live in a “glass bubble” and that as a constituency MP he understood the pain the austerity measures were inflicting on Britain. In light of other recent criticisms, the PM also insisted he wasn’t a male chauvinist pig, but he couldn’t deny that he was in touch with Rupert Murdoch. Read more here.

Home Secretary Theresa May has told the Conservative party conference that she will restore “sanity” to the immigration system.

She said she “remains of the view that the human rights act needs to go”, but in the meantime the government will take steps to amend immigration legislation to stop the act protecting foreign criminals from deportation.

FactCheck: Theresa May caught catnapping on the job

As part her attack on the Human Rights Act, Theresa May also claimed one immigrant was allowed to stay in the UK on account of having a cat. Ken Clarke bet Mrs May was wrong – but was there a whisker of truth to it? FactCheck gets out its claws – click on the image above.

London Mayor Boris Johnson – on classic Boris form – opened conference this morning.

The mayor rallied the Tory troops with a gag a minute, as he listed his achievements in the capital – including cutting crime on buses by 30 per cent and on tubes by 20 per cent. He also claimed we now have the safest underground system in Europe.

“I say call a snap Olympics,” he said. “We’re ahead of schedule, and under-budget.”

Read more: Jon Snow’s verdict on a conference of two Conservative parties

His speech kicked off a day of home affairs debates which closed with a speech on the NHS from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
And tonight, George Osborne will be hoping yesterday’s speech on the economy went down well with business leaders, as he’ll be courting them at dinner. Some of the UK’s leading businessmen will fork out up to £1,000 a ticket for the chance to bend the ears of senior Tories.

Monday 3 October
Chancellor George Osborne tells the Conservative party conference in Manchester that Britain will ride out the economic storm under the coalition’s guidance.

He also announced that a freeze on council tax will be extended for another year – part of measures to help families during the tough economic times, he said.

Political Editor Gary Gibbon grilled Education Secretary Michael Gove in a fringe session encompassing Mr Gove’s vision for education, his own experiences of adoption, and his faith in the current political persona non grata, Rupert Murdoch.

Asked about his relationship with Murdoch, Mr Gove (a former journalist at The Times) said: “I’m a great admirer of Rupert Murdoch, he’s a force of nature, a phenomenon, he’s a great man.”

Defending Mr Murdoch’s reputation in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and citing Murdoch’s investment in the media, he went on: “I don’t think you can look into this episode and the questions raised without looking at his whole career. I know that proclaiming reveration for Rupert Murdoch is like being a Tory in Scotland in the 1980s – not a majority position, but any judgment has to take into account those things.”

And Mr Gove also revealed to Channel 4 News that the PM told him to “get a move on” with his education policy, his words came as the government’s free schools policy came under scrutiny at a fringe meeting. Schools Minister Nick Gibb was challenged by a former teacher from Sweden who said the policy hadn’t worked there. Read more here

Sunday 2 October

Conference kicked off in Manchester to the roar of 30,000 anti-government marchers.

– David Cameron promised a compassionate future for Britain, apologising for his “disrespectful” comments to female MPs. William Hague told Channel 4 News proof of the government’s compassion lies in its commitment to the foreign aid budget, and he defended the Tories over today’s woman trouble: “You only have to look at the fact we’re married to highly accomplished women”.

You can watch Krishnan Guru-Murthy interview Foreign Secretary William Hague below.

– But, it’s the economy stupid, that is set to top the agenda all week. How will the coalition stimulate growth without u-turning on the deficit? Hence today’s talk about getting new affordable houses built.

– And on Europe both David Cameron and William Hague are making it clear they do not want an argument or a referendum on being in or out of the EU. Their line is clear: there is a massive economic crisis in Europe and that’s what we all need to concentrate on. Mr Hague also told Channel 4 News he stands by his mantra that we should be in Europe but not ruled by it.

See the full conference schedule here.