A Daily Telegraph reporter suggested that this conference was more critical for George Osborne than it was for DC. Well, George spoke this morning in the Symphony Hall and I was there as were DC, Phillip Hammond, Michael Gove and a clutch of other senior government members.
We had a warm up from Patrick McLaughlin as Transport Secretary of State before which he was a long serving Chief Whip. Given his background of invisibility, I thought he did well and he fronted the High Speed Rail 2 issue well enough for the majority of the audience
We then had a set-piece debate between three senior business leaders chaired by a Party chap whose name escaped me. This was followed by a second warm up from Paul Deighton, former Chief Executive of LOCOG (which I think stands for London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games). As you might expect, he was impressive, if managerial but provided a good lead in for George and who can lose in front of a Conservative Party Conference who has been responsible for the success of the recent Olympics?
Returning to George, I thought he did well despite what I thought was a tension in his body language but who would not be tense in front of that immediate Party audience and the millions behind the camera lenses? I had a sense of the immediacy of everything when a friend from North Oxfordshire e-mailed to say he had seen me on the telly behind DC!
I thought there was an element of defiance in George Osborne’s speech and I think he is entitled to be defiant in the face of opposition criticism and the economic position we face. As he said, we have kept interest rates low both for the government and for its citizens. This does not please everyone but you never will
Perhaps the most telling moment was in Patrick McLaughlin’s opening comments when he played back his first speech to conference by video tape and the camera panned to a shot of Margaret Thatcher, bringing what felt like the most sustained round of applause I have heard so far. There is no doubt in my mind that our Party is pining for a degree of conviction and certainty that the current political scene may not be able to deliver.