As I head back to Salisbury here are a few random reflections on the Nottingham Spring Forum…
Although attendance seemed slightly down it was a very well-organised conference and all credit to Fingerprint Events for that. Picking up my pass from Accreditation was a fast and perfectly pleasant process. If Fingerprint can deliver the same service in the autumn they will deserve further plaudits.
David Cameron has decided to directly address the ‘will-say-anything-to-get-elected’ concern by adopting some tough positions and determining to stick at them. His green tax proposal (not supported by this website or the majority of party members) isn’t popular with voters and his support for marriage and the family (this website’s favourite feature of Project Cameron) upsets some metropolitan commentators – but both crucially suggest that David Cameron has some inner steel and the positive contribution that makes to ‘the Cameron brand’ could be more important than reactions to any individual policies. This, regular readers may remember, was recommendation two in ConservativeHome’s list of twelve recommendations for Mr Cameron’s second year as leader. Two other key recommendations (on the north and the A-list are already well on their way to being adopted).
I enjoyed a very friendly conversation with David Cameron at yesterday evening’s BBC reception. He told me that he’s a regular reader of ConservativeHome but we spent most time talking about his appearance at yesterday’s doctor’s rally (the big media hit of the weekend) and an address he is giving to the Conservative Christian Fellowship on William Wilberforce later this week. Mr Cameron described me as a "theocon" – a badge I am happy to wear! I also bumped into an even more powerful figure in the Conservative Party – Steve Hilton. We discussed a number of strategic issues but I won’t repeat any of it here because I want him to talk to me again!
I ‘had a go’ at Andrew Scadding of the BBC at their reception (paid for by us licence fee payers) for failing to conduct even one interview with BBC whistle-blower Robin Aitken. Andrew is very straight-dealing and he has kindly promised to come back to me with an explanation of why the Corporation doesn’t hesitate to headline internal critics of the Tories/ White House/ big business but can’t find one slot to respond to Robin Aitken’s comprehensive examination of BBC bias.
Alistair Burt MP was impressive during this morning’s Q&A on the NHS. He persuasively argued that it was vital that Gordon Brown was married to all of the failures of the Blair years – many of which (pensions, tax, waste) he is, of course, personally responsible for. Someone out there should definitely come up with a campaign to fix Blair and Brown together in the public mind.
A most enjoyable part of the weekend was dinner last night with Jean Eaglesham of the FT, Brendan Carlin of The Telegraph and Danny Kruger of the leader’s office. If you see more links to Brendan’s Little & Large blog over the next few weeks it will be as a small thank you for last night’s generosity.
Last year Spring Forum attendees were given that much-mocked ‘don’t
overfill your kettle’ leaflet. This year we received two cards – one
setting out the party’s seven priorities and one focusing on the
party’s NHS campaign. A scan of them both can be viewed below (click to enlarge).