The Conservative Party has at last rediscovered its soul
The Conservatives are back. They're on the offensive, back to their core values, and the party's supporters left the conference in confident and fighting mood for the 2015 election
One of David Cameron’s finest qualities is his ability to bounce back from near oblivion, when the media, pollsters and membership have abandoned all hope. This was a point laboured by the newly installed Chief Whip Michael Gove in the warm-up speech, where he emphasised that leadership is about tough decisions, including telling your own party some uncomfortable home truths.
For the many thousands of delegates who arrived in Birmingham over the weekend, this will be remembered as the conference where problems were turned into solutions and gloom was transformed into optimism.
Across the halls in the ICC and the meeting rooms of the Hyatt Hotel, Cabinet Ministers were preaching to the membership that any defection was a betrayal not just to the party and our people, but to our country. Indeed, this was a conference that for so many obvious reasons seemed set to fail, yet the membership left with fire in their bellies and a clear reason to campaign for a full majority next year.
Up until now, many centre-right columnists had offered praise or support for the likes of Douglas Carswell, revering him as a maverick. Quite how betraying the very people who helped you get elected constitutes noble behaviour seems a mystery to true believers in the Conservative cause.
But then again UKIP is a magnet for political underachievers, who find themselves and their oddball personalities thrust in the limelight; perhaps compensation for their repeated failures in mainstream politics.
The defection of Mark Reckless changed the narrative. From the Prime Minister downwards, every senior Conservative sent a clear message to the membership – that ‘liars and traitors’ have taken them for granted and they should be punished heavily for it.
It is understood that the anger whipped up in the current grassroots movement could well have deterred two other high profile Farage fans from also jumping ship. Shame on them for even contemplating it.
After hearing Wednesday's announcements, the flow of defections should stop immediately. The tax-free personal allowance is to be raised from £10,500 to £12,500 by 2020, giving welcome relief to millions of low paid workers. For the first time since Labour’s welfare culture engulfed our country, it will be better to be in work than enjoying a life on benefits.
There was also some good news for middle earners, with the 40p income tax rate being raised from £41,900 to £50,000 by the end of the next five-year Conservative government. The 40p rate has long been a thorn in the side of middle-earners, with teachers and police officers finding themselves dragged into the bracket as wages have steadily risen.
This announcement was met with loud cheers from the conference delegates, a genuinely bold move, but one which everyone can recognise is right and fair for hardworking Britons.
It was all aimed firmly at the workers and not the shirkers.
He was as tough as any British leader has ever been on the EU, pledging to make immigration the centre-piece of his re-negotiation strategy with Brussels.
In one of the most moving sections of the speech, he told of his love for the NHS, which cared for his disabled son Ivan. Close to tears, the Prime Minister reacted with rage at the repulsive suggestion, touted by Labour last week, that he would deny that level of care to others. This was a defining moment which really did reduce many delegates in the hall to tears, revealing a caring side to Cameron, so lacking in Ed Miliband.
Cameron knew exactly how his electoral pitch needed to be presented, “If you want those things, vote for me. If you don't, vote for the other guy.” There is no room for another choice, “You could go to bed with Nigel Farage, and wake up with Ed Miliband," was the well-timed joke which delivered laughs and shivers in equal measure.
CCHQ know that the polls are close and that the party still has a mountain to climb to win a majority next year. But with a strong record, a mobilised activist base and a series of worker-friendly policies and promises for 2015, the party at last rediscovered its soul.
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