The end of the summer is marked by the UK Party Conference season. I have been to more than I care to recall. They were always held in seaside towns beginning with ‘b’–Bournemouth, Blackpool and Brighton. That has all changed . We now meet in smart Conference Centres in Manchester and Birmingham. We also had Welsh conferences throughout my time as Assembly leader meeting in
Cardiff and Llandudno in alternate years
Some do not stand out in the memory. Others can be electrifying as in 2005 when David Cameron effectively won the leadership of the party with a superb speech delivered without notes.
Conferences fulfil many purposes . There is the social function of meeting up with old friends. I like that. There is the chance to attend discussions and debates and look at possible policy options. I like that too. There is also a very valuable opportunity to meet up with outside organisations–charitable, business,unions, governmental etc. This is useful. From a Welsh perspective I always valued the opportunity to present to the Conference details of the progress that we were making in Wales and to map out the course for Assembly policy.
This year there is of course a great chance for David Jones as the incoming Secretary of State to set out his thinking. No doubt David together with Andrew (RT Davies ) will be presenting their vision for Wales , to carry the party forward. I am sure that we will hear about the policy on fiscal powers, and on devolution more generally,ways of stimulating the Welsh economy , the importance of the barrage, improved communications and many other policy areas.
More broadly I hope that the Party Conference this year will lift the spirits of the party and indeed the whole country. This Paralympic and Olympic summer has shown the true face of our country with people of all backgrounds, ages, creeds and religions coming together. That spirit presents an immense opportunity to tap into selfless voluntary service. Wales and indeed the whole UK has a great record of voluntary service and I hope that we set out ways of making it easier for people to volunteer and help in their communities providing additional help over and above our excellent public services.
I hope that the party sets out a vision of how consistent with our economic strategy, we will, of course, spend smartly to protect and enhance the NHS– a peerless sevice, education and other public services.
We should acclaim our policy of protecting the international aid budget.
We should explain our welare policy of reform and ensuring thet those in need do not go without.
I hope that we also set out imaginative policies for growth like the Severn barrage, further electrification and rail improvement and other capital projects.
We need to set out a vision for the whole nation. This is perhaps the most difficult task of all. Party Conferences have revivalist elements — for all parties.I always feel that this is the only real downside they have. It is understandable perhaps, but parties govern for the whole nation — obviously consistently with the party’s manifesto or in present circumstances a coalition agreement based on two parties’ programmes.
Thankfully, David Cameron has always set out his vision with the needs of the nation as his lodestar. The omens are good.
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