5pm update: CWO Chairman introduced Cameron by saying she admired the challenge he put to Brown at conference to call an election, and that "If you have the women on your side you really can’t go wrong!". Cameron then said that he had great diet advice: make a speech that everyone tells you is the most important one of your life, and don’t use notes. He said he was advised to "ride the dip" during the summer’s problems and that sometimes it felt like a journey to the centre of the Earth!
The audience was shocked by his recounting of the sad story of Lindsay Armstrong, and murmured strong approval when he cited the fact that half of young men believe there are times when forced sex is okay as an example of moral collapse. The hall was packed with over 700 women. In addition to David Cameron’s end-of-day speech speakers included William Hague on human rights and Sir Christopher Meyer being interviewed by Iain Dale.
At 5.7% of all cases reported to the police, Britain has the lowest conviction rates for rape in Europe, according to research by the Conservatives.
The research will be unveiled later today by David Cameron when he addresses the Conservative Women’s Organisation in a speech he will deliver at the QEII Conference Centre in London. Amber Rudd, our Hastings and Rye candidate, will be writing a report on the conference for ConservativeHome in the next day or two.
The Conservative leader will note studies that "have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it’s okay to force a woman to have sex." "To my mind," he will say, "this is an example of moral collapse."
The speech is covered throughout the newspapers but is splashed in the Daily Mail. In addition to calling for cultural change to address "over-sexualisation" of British society, Mr Cameron will argue that consent should be taught as a central feature of sex education in schools. In a further sign of his growing importance to the Tory leader, Nick Herbert, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice will oversee a review of legislation on rape to ensure that punishments are "proportionate to the crime".
PS Last Friday The Daily Mail’s Ben Brogan wondered if David Cameron would address the issue of abortion in his CWO speech. In his blog post he said that the Prime Minister will probably "follow the science and stick with the status quo" on the abortion time limit. Ben also said that Mr Brown "may hope for signs that the Conservative frontbench is out of synch with public opinion". I fear that both of Ben’s two points are very debateable:
- The science on the abortion time limit is contested with the majority of MPs on the science and technology committee saying that the current time limit is right but two Tory MPs dissented from that majority. Ben’s own newspaper recently editorialised in favour of the dissenters. There is international evidence that a foetus can survive outside of the womb before 24 weeks.
- Ben’s second point on public opinion is also contentious. Recent evidence suggested that the public could be persuaded of tighter abortion laws: "81% supported a "compulsory cooling-off period between diagnosis of pregnancy and abortion." 68% supported "a substantial reduction in the upper time limit for abortion to around 13 weeks, bringing us into line with our European neighbours.""