30 September 2011 10:50 AM

Revealed: The Tory conference slogan (and more)

We can reveal that David Cameron's confernce will open under the slogan .... drum roll ....

"Leadership For A Better Future."

It's a phrase that acknowledges tough times but contains that classic Cameron optimism, pointing to a rturn of the good times if people stick with a tough leader.

In today's Standard there's a lively interview with the charming Tory chairman Sayeeda Warsi, who reveals the slogan and explains why leadership is the prime focus of the conference - and why families will "instinctively" swallow the tough medicine prescribed by Dr Cameron.

 "It would be so easy for us to get the [government’s] chequebook out and not make the tough calls. But ask people if they would prefer to have it easy now or, by taking tough decisions, create a better future for their children, most will instinctively choose to put their children first.”

Warsi is on her usual bubbly form. Shge reveals that she, Cameron and other ministers will be recroding audiobooks for blind chuildren during the conference (it's their latest social action project and us Press boys are invited to do the same).

The first considered Tory attack on Ed Miliband's speech is also there. She says Labour created the something-for-nothing society and asks how Ed's speech squares with Labour's opposition to removing legal aid from cheeky squatters.

There's lots more ... a return to old fashioned conference debates, some amazing techie innovations etc.

But my favourite line is a cracking joke about when Chris Huhne compared to the evil Dr Geobbels. “When I was young my mum wanted me to be a doctor and I never lived up to her expectations [Warsi became a lawyer]. What I always say is, the Conservatives might have made me a Lady - but it took the Liberal Democrats to make me a doctor.”



Joe Murphy

follow me on twitter  @JoeMurphyLondon



28 September 2011 11:43 AM

An end to something-for-nothing volunteering

Ed Miliband was emphatic yesterday in wanting to end the "something-for-nothing" culture in Britain and replace it with a "something-for-something" society.

It seems Labour is planning to take this logic to its ultimate end - rewarding people for volunteering.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell has set out how this might work in her speech to conference. She wants people to contribute more to society, particularly if they use public services, for example by asking former in-patients to help people recovering at home after hospital treatment.

In return, people who help out will be incentivised. Tessa hailed a Lambeth "community dividend" scheme which gives volunteers credits for council tax, discounted council services and time in the gym - suggesting it could be rolled out across the country under Labour.

It is all part of Labour's response to the Big Society, which also came under attack from Tessa today.

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse

25 May 2011 2:50 PM

Barack backing for Big Society?

Following this afternoon's joint press conference in the London sunshine (Rose Garden II, anyone?), commentators are already poring over David Cameron and Barack Obama's words looking for differences.

Two obvious chinks stuck out - Cameron did not mention 1967 borders in relation to Israel, while Obama didn't give the wholehearted backing to the Coalition's economic policy that the Treasury would have loved to wave at Eds Miliband and Balls.

Shortly afterwards, Downing Street highlighted six announcements of closer working between the UK and US, and one in particular caught my eye.

"The US Peace Corps and VSO will jointly promote volunteering and active citizenship through people to people exchanges," it reads.

"They will work together alongside local communities and organisations on development priorities and they will enhance their effectiveness by sharing best practice in training, systems and innovation."

OK, so it isn't quite Barack Obama declaring his unstinting belief in the Big Society. But it is very BS-centred, which seems like quite a coup when you consider the other five areas of joint working are on armed forces support, global development, cyberspace, national security and science and universities.

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse

24 May 2011 8:45 AM

Big Society explained - in an hour

One of the Biggest Criticisms of the Big Society - given its latest push yesterday - is that it is too nebulous, too massive, for people fully to understand it. Indeed I've often thought the original slogan, "Big Society not Big Government", sums up the whole problem - it is easier to say what it isn't than what it is.

I've just been reading the transcript of arecent conference about the Big Society hosted by the Reform think-tank, where Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin was the keynote speaker. He gives a really comprehensive outline of both the Government's Big Society vision and the strategy which will deliver it, but therein lies the problem. After a long speech and two questions, director Andrew Haldenby remarks: "Oliver, you’ve given us an hour of your time, which is much more than we expected, so thank you so much."

A few things stand out from Letwin's speech. First is the passion with which he speaks - he clearly really believes in the BS (as harsh critics have dubbed it).

Second is a claim that the Tories and Lib-Dems were both developing the same "set of parallel...not always knowing what each other were doing". He adds: "When we came to negotiate the programme for government we discovered that we had a very similar cast of mind."

Third is his very ambitious stated aim: "We're trying to shift the centre [of politics]"

Fourth is a call for Britain to take more risks, part of an attack on health and safety culture: "We actually need to recognise that very often curtailing risk curtails opportunity to a greater degree than is proportional to the risk that we’ve reduced. And, you know, that’s a recalibration that’s really very important if this vision is to be realised."

Finally, and as an amusing aside, he used the Ministry of Defence as the perfect example of one public service that shouldn't be delivered as close to the ground as possible.

"We have no plans to equip our enemies with vouchers to enable them to choose which of our militaries they get attacked by."

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse