I had an interesting conversation with Dan Hannan MEP yesterday. Now I know and have a great working relationship with many of our MEPs, in fact I am privileged enough to call one of my two local MEPs a personal friend. Dan was signing a copy of his new book, “What Next” for me.
His question was, “So as an elected Councillor, how do you think the Conservative Party is doing in government?”… My response is becoming a stock answer for most of us, “Ok, but could do better”… Dan simply replied: “We’ll get there”.
The last time that I was in Manchester was Party Conference 2015. In 2015 we were buoyant and the conference was bouncing. the atmosphere was electric. 2016 in Birmingham was Theresa’s first as leader and first as PM and the party was hopeful and looking forward to the future. 2017 and we’re back in Manchester, the feeling is very subdued. The conference hall is half empty and we are much more Business like this year. its much more about getting the job done rather than celebrating victory. Although Sir Patrick did say on Sunday, that everyone is forgetting that we did actually win in June.
This is my seventh conference. I missed out 2013 in Manchester due to pressing campaign organisation, but otherwise I haven’t missed a year out since 2011. Now that I am an elected Councillor, I choose my Conference activity to suit business needs. For example, in the beginning, I would sit in on every speech and I would visit every stand in the exhibition hall, I would burn out by Tuesday morning. These days, I will visit the exhibits that matter, the causes that mean something to me. I will select the speeches that really interest me.
Yesterday, I sat in on the industrial strategy speech session. The new ‘Metro Mayors’; Karen Bradley; Greg Clarke and Chris Grayling were all fantastic speakers. Andy Street, however was the highlight. Andy is a huge inspiration to me as he has left the retail industry, admittedly much higher up the tree than me, and gone into full time politics as the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands. I had the pleasure of supporting Andy on the campaign trail.