Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Tories need to sell their optimism..

Good morning. David Cameron's main task today is to knock the Daily Mail and Ed Miliband off the headlines. The ding-dong between the newspaper and the Labour leader over Ralph Miliband's Marxism has distracted from what has otherwise been a successful Tory conference. The Labour leader must know that by going at it hammer and tongs with the Mail he is both advertising his claim to be a politician who takes on the rich and powerful and drawing attention away from the Tory leader's big day. 
In Tory circles there is discomfort at the way the Mail is pursuing its vendetta - they rather wish Paul Dacre would just belt up. But in a way the newspaper, in its unique style, is putting up in lights the divide that now marks British politics following Mr Miliband's speech last week. The cosy centrist blancmange of Blairite New Labour that sucked in the Tories and Lib Dems has been exploded and we are back where we used to be. Or rather, Labour have set off on a long march back to their socialist roots, leaving Cameroon Conservatism in command of the centre. 
At least Mr Cameron can congratulate himself for a good start to the day. The Times, Guardian and Telegraph all use the same splash headline - 'Profit is not a dirty word, says Cameron' - after No10 briefed out extracts (he's on at roughly 11am, watch it live here on the Telegraph's rolling conference coverage). In fact, the entire week in Manchester can be judged a success, if not quite a stunner. There have been no presentational disasters, the party gives every impression of being united against the twin enemies of Labour and Ukip, it has set out a simple, clear message, and Boris has made a peace of sorts with Dave. 
One of the PM's advisers suggested to me that the main ambition for the PM is to repeat last year's speech without anyone noticing. It was last year that Mr Cameron gave us a clear idea of what he was about and what the Coalition was for. Global race and personal aspiration, the twin drivers of Tory strategy, continue to be the things Mr Cameron wishes to promote. 'For hard working people' is the conference slogan, underscored by George Osborne's 'on your side' message on Tuesday. 
What does Mr Cameron have to do specifically? We are told he has only tweaked his speech to reflect Ed Miliband's left-fest last week, but there will be a great expectation that he take on the arguments of the Labour leader or at least offer a distinct alternative to Mr Miliband's vision of a party that relies on price controls, land seizures and vote rigging to get its way. Mr Cameron's praise for profit should be seen in that light. If Britain is to win that global race then its companies and individuals should be free to make money. Far from restricting companies in their activities, politicians should be praising them for the success that creates wealth and jobs. Mr Cameron wants to argue that business is vital to generating growth, which in turn is what will drive up living standards. He will also argue that the Tories are about more than pounds and pence, the dry, dismal facts of economics, but also stand for an optimism about Britain that contrasts Labour's bleak view of our prospects. Mr Cameron can deliver a big speech. He will also want to make sure that by tonight, the argument is between him and Mr Miliband, not between the Labour leader and the press.
The row over the Daily Mail's attack on Ralph Miliband continues. The Mail's deputy editor Jon Steafel last night defended the editorial decision to publish the articles, though he conceded it was an error of judgement to use a photograph of Ralph Miliband's grave online, and that it had been removed. There was a heated exchange on Newsnight (you can watch it here) with Alastair Campbell, who described the Mail as "the worst of British values posing as the best". Campbell's over the top performance owed more to Peter Capaldi and the Thick of It than reasoned debate. The Mail returns to the fray today with another passionately argued leader on the implications of Ralph Miliband's Marxism. On my blog I've argued that we have too easily forgotten the deadly struggle of the Cold War: "What is true is that Marxism hated - hates - Britain and what it stands for, and in those terms Ralph Miliband was one of the Cold War's bad guys."
Boris kept his mischief-making to a minimum in yesterday's speech, lending to the theory that perhaps there has been "a deal" with Dave (newly enthusiastic about Boris's return to the Commons). Could it be that Borismania is over, as Dan Hodges suggests? The speech didn't quite have the must watch now feel of previous offerings. As Iain Martin writes, "Can he find ways to ensure that the hugely entertaining routine does not go stale?" If Dave does remain PM after 2015, Boris could expect at least another seven years of waiting. And recent Tory history shows the party doesn't always plump for blonde heir-apparents.  
It was a day for wobbly Tories, with Michael Gove's tears at pupils, teachers and parents who said that lives had been transformed by free schools. At a fringe event George Osborne gave one of his most revealing interviews. His mum used to vote for Labour and his dad the Liberals; he asked Nigel Lawson about moving his family into Downing Street; and he thinks that the Tories "never really" worked out how to deal with Tony Blair. As for Gordon Brown, Mr Osborne described him as the only politician "he found it impossible to have a civil relationship with". At the Spectator's party, the Chancellor was overheard lamenting that he missed a Katy Perry conference on Monday.
The Steak and Lobster restaurant (located conveniently just outside the conference secure zone) has done a record trade of lobsters during conference. Good news for hardworking waiters etc.  
The NHS is making progress in its search for a new chief executive to replace Sir David Nicholson. Simon Stevens, the group executive vice-president of UnitedHealth, is Cameron’s preferred candidate according to The Guardian. But Mr Stevens would have to move from his settled life across the pond and take a pay cut too.
Given that Tory conference has been a rather civil affair so far, you can hardly blame the papers for seeking entertainment elsewhere. So we've had lots on Nigel Farage, lots on Ed Miliband (see above) and now lots on bread after Dave's blunder yesterday. Top of the pops is the Mirror, who brand the PM and his £139 breadmaking machine "D'oh boy!" on its front page. 
That's the number of postmen who turned down the offer of free shares in the Royal Mail privatisation, as we report.
Sarah Wollaston gives Dave some advice:
@drwollastonmp: Today Cameron needs to broaden the base of the Conservative Party not signal a move to the wastelands of the right. 
In the Telegraph 
Best of the rest
Daniel Finkelstein in the Times - Hands up who’s paying for the free lunches
Conservative Party Conference concludes. 
9am Ask Boris on LBC 97.3 
9.15am Speeches by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Scottish Minister David Mundell, leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew R.T. Davies, and leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson. 
10am Pre-trial review hearing over Balcombe fracking protests, Crawley. 
11am David Cameron's speech to conference. 

12.30pm Tory conference closes.