Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Truth on the Economy

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, George Osborne has set out what needs to be done to tackle this country's debt crisis. He highlighted the fact that this Government spends more money on servicing the debt than it does on educating our children or on policing our streets.

When we as members of the public are in debt, we don't keep on borrowing, and keep on spending: we rein in our spending, and start paying down the debt to reduce interest payments and get ourselves back on an even keel. Government should be no different.

Osborne set out significant steps to address the debt crisis in the short and long term, consistent with the values of the modern progressive Conservative Party - protecting the poorest and the low paid, being straight with people and recognising that we are all in this together.

Conservatives have been straight with the British people, and this includes:
· A bigger state pension each year for all, paid for by an increase in the pension age of one year;
· A one year public sector pay freeze, that does not apply to the lowest paid, in order to protect the jobs of 100,000 people working in frontline public services;

· Tackling Britain's debt crisis to stop higher interest rates and higher unemployment for all.

As George Osborne said: "these are the honest choices in the world in which we live. Anyone who tells you these choices can be avoided is not telling you the truth. We are all in this together."

Raising the retirement age to 66
To restore the link between the level of the state pension and earnings, the retirement age will have to rise. This is another of those trade-offs any honest government has to confront. All parties accept that to afford that, with an ageing population, the state pension age will have to rise. The women's pension age is already set to start rising next year to 65, and then in 2026 the pension age for men and women will go up to 66. No one who is a pensioner today, or approaching retirement soon, will be affected. But this is how we can afford increasing the basic state pension for all.

One year pay freeze in 2011
Whoever wins the next election is going to have to look at the cost of public sector pay, and to accept a one year pay freeze. The Conservatives made it clear that this shouldn't include public servants earning less than £18,000, because we don't believe in balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest. Nor would they include those risking their lives for this country in Afghanistan - we owe them so much more, so we should double their operational allowance.

A pay freeze of the scale we're talking about is the equivalent to saving 100,000 public sector jobs. We say to every public sector worker that this is the best way to try to protect your job during this difficult period. We are all in this together.

I was pleased with Osborne's speech: it is absolutely fundamental to look at the economic situation honestly, and to recognise that this is a time where tough choices are required. No doubt there will be the usual Labour rhetoric about Tory cuts, but as we know, they now accept the need to make them too. The Conservatives showed themselves to be the party of the many, not just of the few.

It seems to me that there is a real choice between Conservatives and Labour on the Economy ... Honesty and Truth on the Economy or more of Labour being Economic with the Truth!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Off to Manchester

I am on my way up to Manchester for Conservative Party Conference. This will be a very interesting year, and is a real opportunity for the Conservatives to show that they are ready to govern.

While the polls look good, it must be remembered quite what a steep climb there is for the Conservatives to win at the next election. To have a majority of just 1 (Labour's current majority is over 100) we need to win 117 seats. This is significantly higher than the number of seats won by Margaret Thatcher in the historic election victory in 1979, and requires a massive swing, which has not been achieved since the 1930s.

No doubt there will be much mention of there being no room for complacency. This is not just a political statement, but absolutely the case. We need to convince voters across the country to throw out this Labour Government and to give the Conservatives a chance.

I have every confidence that the Conservative team will deliver strong policy announcements on the big issues, and the issues that matter most to people, but also that there is strength in the team, and that alongwith David Cameron, the team can and will deliver, if people give us the opportunity to govern this country.

All quite exciting really ...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Save General Election Night

I am supporting this cross-party campaign to save general election night.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday 6th September - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6823320.ece - that increasing numbers of councils are planning on counting the votes cast on the Friday morning rather than the Thursday night. Conservative political blogger Jonathan Isaby started the campaign, but was quickly joined and supported by Labour MP Tom Harris and Mark Pack of Lib Dem Voice

Here are a few reasons why you might support the campaign:

*We want to know who won as soon as possible*
Quite simply, once the polling stations have closed we want to know the result as soon as possible. And this argument holds on two levels. Firstly, on a constituency level, but more significantly on a national level: if the general election is going to be close, then it is possible that if lots of seats are not counting until Friday - especially marginals - then we will not know who is going to be Prime Minister, form the Government etc until Friday lunchtime.

*It would be a backward step*
In the digital 24-hour media age when we are used to getting news quicker than ever before, it would be a backward step to delay election counts. If anything, we should be seeking to persuade the few constituencies which historically count on a Friday to bring their counts forward to Thursday night.

*Fewer people will be able to follow the results coming in*
Sitting around the television into the early hours is an election night ritual for people across the land, many of whom do not perhaps follow politics closely on a daily basis. But if there are fewer results to announce - and the potential of not getting a national result to boot - they are less likely to bother tuning in and when the remaining constituencies declare and the national result becomes apparent on the Friday, anyone at work is not going to be able to witness the climax of the electoral process.

*The TV coverage of the election will suffer*
The outside broadcasts (OBs) at counts up and down the country have provided many a memorable moment over they years, and they bring the results to life. However, the reason why broadcasters are able to provide such a variety of OBs is that there is no other call on the satellite trucks and outside broadcast units during the night. If there were an increasing number of counts on Friday during the day, fewer of them would have cameras present, thereby reducing the ability of the broadcasters to give full coverage of the results.

*It's a tradition, dammit*
The traditional British way of doing elections is to have people come out to vote and then count the ballot papers immediately afterwards. It's how we do it and what we're used to.

*Threats to the integrity of the ballot*
Security is a less important concern, but worth a mention all the same. Some of us might be just a little uncomfortable about increasing millions of ballot papers being left overnight before being counted.


Join the facebook group:

Please contact your local council (most likely the electoral registration department or Chief Executive's office) to discover when the votes for your constituency at the general election will be counted.

If it's definitely Thursday, message Jonathan Isaby (the facebook group's admin) and a list of confirmed Thursday counts will be posted in the latest news section below.

If your council indicates that it will be counting on Friday or that it is yet to be decided, again, please let Jonathan Isaby know so that it can be posted below, but please also lobby your local councillors and council leader to urge them to count the votes on the Thursday night.

Together we can save General Election Night!