Cameron's (desperately) big Birmingham moment

The Tory sexting (non) scandal is a storm in a tea cup. No-one cares about politicians' sex lives any more. The Reckless defection to UKIP is quite another matter and the Tory conference is buzzing with talk about its implications. Do they get it? Judge for yourself

Cameron and his wife arrive for the Tory conference
Steven George-Hilley
On 28 September 2014 10:02

There could be no better venue for the last Conservative conference before the 2015 election than Birmingham. An economic powerhouse of engineering, manufacturing and science, made up of the kind of hardworking voters that David Cameron simply must win over if he wishes to have a working majority next year.

Like all great cities, Birmingham has had its challenges, I should know as I was born here. With a family history in the manufacturing industry I am no stranger to the impact the closure of companies like Rover over a decade ago had on the local area. 

But the people of Birmingham are resilient, bouncing back from any setback and transforming the city centre to a hub of new media and the creative industries over the last ten years, with manufacturing bouncing back against all the odds.

Spend just five minutes walking along the canal, past the packed-out fancy restaurants and it is clear the city has established a thriving upwardly mobile community. Stop and ask for directions and you’ll be given a sincere, friendly and helpful answer. The city isn’t nicknamed the heart of England just for its geographical location.

This environment should be natural territory for the Conservatives. So it is with regret that activists awoke to a series of lurid and somewhat embarrassing headlines concerning one defection and one ministerial resignation in the papers.

The undercover team at the Sunday Mirror will undoubtedly be celebrating this morning having claimed the scalp of Brooks Newmark, Minister for Civil Society in an a sexting sting operation. Whilst a highly embarrassing error of judgement for someone so senior, the only outrage I have sensed so far comes from the former Minister’s preference to wear paisley pyjamas.

A more troubling problem is the defection of Mark Reckless MP to UKIP, timed to do maximum damage to his party and to the Prime Minister. Reckless, like his friend and what many Tories here in Birmingham see as fellow opportunistic oddball Douglas Carswell, was also lying to his supporters when he told them he had no plans to defect.

A man who can lie and publicly betray the very people who campaigned, delivered leaflets and canvassed for him in the rain, wind and snow is not an honourable man, and it is time we recognised that.

Like the Westminster elite he claims to oppose, it turns out that men like Reckless and Carswell only care about keeping their seats and their majorities, switching party for their own needs and at the expense of friendships, loyalty and decency.

But the truth remains that these incidents are a distraction from the very real challenges facing the country. This was a message summarised by Party Chairman Grant Shapps this morning on BBC Breakfast, when he said “The important thing for this conference is to secure the future of the country,” leading on the emphasise the Conservative Party’s long list of substantial achievements on tackling unemployment and cutting the deficit.

This afternoon, Shapps is leading a group of several hundred activists for a campaign action day across Birmingham as part of the Team 2015 and Road Trip 2015 initiatives. Their message, crafted by election strategist Lynton Crosby, will be simple and stark, the Conservatives offer a long term economic plan in contrast with Labour’s irresponsible spending plans.

This message is something all would-be defectors to UKIP should think long and hard about before making any stupid decisions, which are counterproductive to the party and to the country.

The latest opinion polling following Ed Miliband’s lacklustre and uninspiring speech shows the Labour lead has dropped to just two points. Instead of using Manchester as a platform for an electoral pitch to become Prime Minister of Great Britain, Miliband used it to address his left-wing support base, refusing to mention the deficit or immigration in his speech.

Anyone who cares about the future of our country understands the dangers of letting a man who has no plan to tackle these critical issues into Number 10.

Labour fudged its conference, and no amount of negative headlines or distractions should prevent David Cameron from doing the same. This is the moment the people of Birmingham and the country need to see a big, bold electoral pitch offering a positive future for the UK.

Clear pledges of action on immigration and reducing the deficit should be matched with optimistic plans for getting more people into work and creating a secure future for Britain.

The consequences of failing to vote Conservative at the next election must be made crystal clear, with the only outcome being the election of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and a debt-heavy economic catastrophe simply too frightening to contemplate.

This conference isn’t a battle against UKIP distractions, it’s a battle for our country’s future.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator and tweets @StevenGeorgia

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