Morning after the conference before. This year’s Conservative Party Conference should have been a victory lap for the new Prime Minister but at times it felt like a car crash. The mood was resigned, party discipline non-existent, and there were almost no announcements (presumably for fear of market reaction). The main economic policy announced was a U-turn on the 45p rate, although the Chancellor deserves credit for recognising it was unsustainable. But a wider problem remains: Michael Gove remarked at an Onward’s fringe event on Sunday, borrowing-funded tax cuts are “not in the best Conservative traditions.” This is the challenge that the Chancellor’s medium-term fiscal strategy, due at the end of the month, must respond to.
Growth, growth, growth. The Prime Minister’s speech was the clearest articulation yet of her governing philosophy and made a more emotive argument for growth than previously. She said: “Low growth isn’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. Low growth means lower wages, fewer opportunities and less money to spend on the things that make life better. It means our country falling behind other countries, including those who threaten our way of life. And it means the parts of our country that I really care about falling even further behind… it is wrong to invest only in places which are thriving, as economic models often have it. We need to fund the furthest behind first.”
Online harms. A coroner ruled that social media companies Meta and Pinterest contributed to the death of Molly Russell, a 12 year old child, after their accounts were flooded with thousands of pro-suicide and self-harm posts. Molly’s bereaved father welcomed the ruling, accusing the firms in question of monetising misery. The verdict was welcomed by the Children’s Commissioner and Prince William. Recent Onward research explored the correlation between problematic online activity and social isolation and mental illness.
Better than blackouts. The Government launched its support for household energy bills at the weekend. But something is missing. As Alex Stafford MP remarked at an Onward fringe in Birmingham, “where is the public messaging campaign we had during Covid?” After all, aren’t the Conservatives all for individual responsibility? As Onward’s Ed Birkett told ITV news, the Government should be more proactive in asking people who can to cut back: not doing so increases the risks of blackouts.
News and media
Dear Diary. Will Tanner wrote this week’s New Statesman’s Diary from Conservative Party Conference.
Age of extremes. James Marriott cites Onward’s research in a Times long read on the generational divides that define British society.
Conference central. Our array of Party Conference events generated significant media coverage, including in The Telegraph and The Spectator.
We were thrilled to host 24 events at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, our largest programme ever. Speakers included 6 Cabinet Ministers and 10 junior ministers from across government, and over a thousand people attended our fringes and drinks party.
If you are unable to attend this year’s conference you can also watch all of our live events back on our YouTube channel. Some highlights included:
Michael Gove on the intellectual debate for the future of the centre right.
Ben Wallace on the war in Ukraine and the UK’s strategic priorities.
Chloe Smith on getting more people into work.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan on the case for green jobs and skills.
Andy Street on devolution and the power of cities.
Thank you to all the sponsors, speakers and attendees who made our programme such a success.
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