It's going to be a tough week for David Cameron at the Tory conference

Precisely because David Cameron's position is so secure, he's likely to face a tougher week than Miliband or Clegg did at their party conferences

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The stage is set at Manchester Central
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Harry Cole
On 2 October 2011 10:55

As the Conservative Party Conference gets underway in Manchester, the air waves, the newspapers and the blogosphere are dominated by pundits and politicos offering their thoughts on what the next few days may entail for the Prime Minister. So, here’ s my two cents.

As I said in my Sunday Times paper review earlier this morning, Dave was quick out of the blocks with an interview with said paper and an early morning tour of the TV studios.

His entire performance can be summed up in a sentence: Dave is a modern, compassionate conservative who loves growth and is a bit weary of Europe.

His party has other ideas though.

I've been saying for weeks that Cameron is set to have the trickiest conference of the three leaders.

There is no doubt that Miliband had a horrendous outing, however his lemming-like party faithful clapped him as he fell off the cliff. Cameron on the other hand is firmly entrenched in his position, which means his party will be much less restrained in their willingness to rock the boat, knowing full well they aren't going to bring him down.

Growth is the buzz word. The pressure is on Osborne for his speech tomorrow. Many expected him to pull out a shiny car key policy to jangle in-front of the party and the cameras, but in the absence of a tax cut or a radical solution to our stagnant growth, the country is unlikely to give a collective, “Aaaah. Now we can all relax.”

Elsewhere, behind the main stage, there are movements afoot that the leadership won’t like. The 2010 intake know full well that they won't be getting the jobs they want in this parliament because of the Coalition. So, we won't see the usual slavish loyalty from new MPs. They’re writing more pamphlets about what to do next than the Tories were doing in opposition.

The Independent on Sunday has an interesting profile of "The New Right" -- those behind the roadmap to victory, “After the Coalition”.

"The New Right is more economically liberal than Tories in government, but its members are also less socially conservative than many in the Cabinet". This can only be a good thing.

Though there will be some grumbling about the amount of power and influence surrendered to the Liberal Democrats, the big headache for the Prime Minister will be the massive shadow of Europe hanging over this conference.

Right-wingers in the party will have choked on their coffee this morning when the Foreign Secretary William Hague, once the darling of the right and a professed Euro-sceptic, said there will be no referendum on Europe because the government is "concentrating on growth". Which as we all know is going fantastically...

The Observer, for its part, is stirring up tension saying Hague is snubbing his party.

When William Hague tells The Guardian’s Sunday sister paper that “'our place is in the European Union” and describes coalition government as “wonderfully refreshing” you know there is going to be a bun fight. There is no way this could not be described as inflammatory language in terms of party unity.

But Hague might yet be hamstrung by his own backbenchers. As the Mail on Sunday reports, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition to have a referendum on the EU, forcing Parliament to debate the issue before Christmas and maybe in the next few weeks.

The most lethal cocktail for those scared of giving the people a say (such as Cameron and Miliband), would be a union between the Tory right and the Eurosceptic Labour left. And the wheels of such a pact are indeed in motion. Just look at who is calling for the vote:

Labour MP Natascha Engel was quoted by the Mail as saying: "Given the crisis in the eurozone, this issue has become more relevant than ever. There is a clear majority of backbench MPs who want to debate this and we have to respond to that”.

Watch out Dave, you might not want a referendum but you are the Prime Minister, not the President. Parliament might yet have the last laugh on this issue, and it will be the talk of the grassroots at this gathering.

So there we have it. A multi-pronged fight for Dave and Co this week, with his party unhappy, the media waiting with bated breath and old uncle “Economy” ready to get drunk and ruin the party for everyone at any moment. It’s going to be an interesting week.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryColeand is the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes blog

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