Sunday, 9 October 2011

Reflections on Manchester 2011

Interview with Huw Edwards
After four days of back to back meetings, briefings, interviews, forums, speeches, and late nights, it was once again time to say goodbye to the wonderful city of Manchester. It’s not hard to warm to Manchester, whether it’s the convenient, spacious layout of the main hall and the Midland Hotel or the overwhelming kindness of just about every single person you meet from security guards to cab drivers – the city has a deservedly well-liked reputation.
BackBoris 2012 interview

Like many delegates from the South, my conference journey kicked off with a long drive on the motorway and after checking into our hotel, we headed out to the conference venue, met up with our political friends and colleagues and enjoyed visiting the numerous conference stalls and stands. Although, as many commentators have noted, there were less delegates than expected, there was still a buzz around the halls and corridors as conference finally kicked off. I popped by the humours ‘Ed’s Jerk Chicken’ stand and was told I would only be served ‘left wings.’ After this tasty treat I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Back Boris organisers, appropriately dressed in their Boris apparel and filmed a short video stating why I back his re-election bid.

I managed to attend some interesting sessions and heard some excellent policy announcements on business credit, Council Tax and crime and punishment. The mood inside the main hall was electric, with delegates keenly debating and discussing the topics of the day, but it would be foolish to assume that all the excitement was happening inside the conference venue. Just moments away the Freedom Zone, headed up by the legendary Simon Richards, held a serious of debates in conjunction with other organisations such as The Taxpayers Alliance and Big Brother Watch securing huge turnouts in what is widely seen to be their most successful conference to date. 

Ben Howlett and me with David Cameron
I was also lucky to attend several other meetings such as the Conservative Future panel discussion and the drinks reception, the social action reception with David Cameron and the launch of the Conservative Friends of International Development. Having recently returned from a life changing trip to Sierra Leone as part of Project Umubano, it was great to catch up with Andrew Mitchell, Stephen Crabb and the rest of the organisers and see such a huge turnout for such an important programme. Policy Exchange hosted their usual legendary reception at the Manchester Art Gallery and Syed Kamall hosted his even more legendary annual curry that I attended. Finally, I got the chance to see both Boris and Cameron in a double act at the London reception, a scene which triggered fits of laughter within the audience.

Our CF fringe event packed out!

David Cameron’s keynote speech was both robust and inspiring and delegates saw several presentations about the Conservative Party’s work with young people beforehand. As the Party moves forward in tackling the deficit and cutting waste, each and every member needs to stick together and stand our ground. There are some great ideas and debates forming across all areas of our party, and these should be considered and embraced. Manchester was a significant next step for a party keen to move forward and tackle the huge challenges facing our country. These challenges can only be overcome if we stick together and we work together.

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