Francis Maude has used his opening speech to the Tory conference to say that voters like David Cameron and the broad mass of the Conservative Party needs to become more like him. Noting that party membership has increased by 10% since David Cameron’s election, the word that appeared throughout the Tory Chairman’s speech was change and the Manchester conference centre is festooned with banners bearing the word "change". Francis Maude:
"People really do think [David Cameron] is the goods: high intellect, deep integrity, serious principles, gives strong leadership to his party, is willing to take tough decisions, as well as having flair and charisma. People think – and how right they are – that David has all the qualities they want in the future PM. We now need to convince them that the whole party has changed…
It would be wrong for us to expect David Cameron to carry the entire burden of persuading people that we’ve changed. As a party we vaunt our belief in personal responsibility. We must all take personal responsibility for the success of our shared venture, not contract it all out to the leader."
Mr Maude went on to say that change in the kind of candidates selected by the party was an essential part of the necessary change agenda. He rejected the idea that the statements within Built To Last bordered on the banal. He stressed the need for a less narrow view of what it meant to be a Conservative:
"Our appeal still needs to be broader. So why should we seek to define people out of our party’s appeal by telling them that they’re not “proper Conservatives”? We need to define our conservatism so that more people are attracted to us not fewer. Otherwise we can never win and never have the chance to put our principles into practice in the service of our country and our communities."
In a nod to Tory traditionalists one of the strongest parts of his speech was an attack on Labour’s reliance on funding from the trade unions:
"Who have been Labour’s biggest donors since 2001? It’s not Paul Drayson, not Bernie Ecclestone, not even the munificent Lord Sainsbury. It’s Unison, the GMB, Amicus and the TGWU. Those four unions alone have given over £27 million to the Labour Party since the beginning of 2001. And the total for all unions is over £47million – about two thirds of Labour’s funding. What, you may ask, do they get in return? It wasn’t beer and sandwiches at Number 10. This time it was something much more mouth-watering than that. This time Labour and the unions got together two years ago, and the result was a lip-smacking deal that would have made the brothers of the 1970s proud.
The Labour Party granted the unions over 60 policy concessions – from watering down anti-strike legislation to support for European employment regulation. In return? Yes, you guessed it. The unions bankrolled Labour’s general election campaign. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s now a union ‘modernisation fund’. Last month, this doled out £3 million of taxpayers’ money to the unions. These unions, who so desperately needed £3 million of taxpayers’ funds, who at the same time are giving Labour £12 million a year. So let me make it quite clear. If there is to be agreement on reform to party funding, it will have to include an end to the corrupt cronyism of Labour’s union dependency."
Mr Maude’s day began controversially. Rather than seeking to dampen the row with UKIP he stoked up the row by using a Today programme interview to suggest that elements of UKIP would like to go back to a Britain of many decades ago – one that was all white. UKIP and the Tories now appear to be at the beginning of an escalating war. UKIP leader Roger Knapman MEP issued a petulant statement saying that "while UKIP had a policy of contesting as many seats as possible, it would in future particularly target Conservative marginals". Hatred of Conservatives appears to motivate UKIP more than Euroscepticism.