I'm not going to Manchester this week, but will be much engaged with what happens there. Personally, I reckon its easier to judge events from a distance. My experience of conferences is that attendees see only a small part of the action, and have no idea of how the watching public see it. This post is about my hopes for the week. There are three issues that matter above all others - the EU constitution, the desperate state of our finances, and the war in Afghanistan.
Discussion during today's run up to the Conference has been dominated by the implications of the Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Timing made that inevitable I suppose. But important as this issue is, it should be no more than a side issue this week. We will see what happens. Its our political opponents who are desperate that it should become the dominating issue. The policy reality is that David Cameron and William Hague decided on their stance a long time ago, and they have no intention whatsoever of changing it. Quite right to. The promise was, and the intention is, to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, if it has not been incorporated into the EU constitution by the time DC becomes Prime Minister. Until today there were three countries which had not yet signed up. Now there are two - Poland and Checkoslovakia. If these two countries do sign up before the General Election, David Cameron will have to tell us what he intends to do in the changed circumstances. I really do find the comments of both Labour and Liberal Democrats on this issue deeply hypocritical. Both parties reneged on the promises that they made to hold a referendum, resorting to linguistic gymnastics and a deviousness that has revolted many voters, and brought disrespect down upon politics in general. They should just lower their heads in shame as declaring their admiration for David Cameron's integrity. Some hope of that though.
In respect of the war in Afghanistan, I hope there will be reaffirmation of the creation of a 'War Cabinet', and an absolute commitment to winning the war. Generally speaking, I'm not sympathetic to the idea of 'going to war'. But when you're in, you're in. Once our young people are 'at war' I will always give them total support. While our armed forces are in Afghanistan, we should stand 100% behind them. I expect that to be the unequivocal message from Manchester this week.
And thirdly, there's the desperate state of the UK finances. The speeches of Kenneth Clarke, George Osborne, William Hague and David Cameron will need to instill into the nation a confidence that they have the determination and vision to clear up the appalling mess that Labour will have left behind. The sort of descriptions of their speeches that I hope to read are 'workmanlike', 'reassuring to business', and 'a clear vision of what's needed', etc.. It would be very unwise to assume that the next General Election is won, but its important for the United Kingdom that these four opposition politicians look like leaders of a Government-in-waiting.