What a week! This was our first Party Conference since the relaunch and we hosted a really strong programme of CPF events. Our annual lecture with David Willetts kicked off the week and laid out a strong critique of - and way forward for - our politics, economics and society.
This was followed by two great, members-only debates on economy and education, and a main stage session on Wednesday that set out the main themes we’ll be focusing upon in the year ahead: Productivity; Ageing; and Cities, Towns and Villages of the Future.
The debates were brilliant! They provided a real opportunity for members to have their say, to shape the discussion and to contribute to policy development. Oliver Letwin, our Chairman, took charge– throwing open the floor and taking a huge range of questions, comments and assertions before drawing in the opinions of two interesting panels.
On Economy & Growth, Greg Hands, Mark Prisk and Nadhim Zahawi, sat alongside Christine Mackay from the award winning CPF Group in West Hull and Hessle and CPF Director Natalie Elphicke to field points on capital allowances for small businesses, CPI adjustment to benefits, LPG storage capacity, Bank of England inflation targets, and even capital investment in local facilities such as public loos.
On Education, we heard from members running programmes to help children in care get local apprenticeships, and members mentoring disadvantaged young people into work; we talked about creating lifelong learning opportunities and skilling up IT competency. Taking part in this panel were David Willetts, Eric Ollerenshaw , Tony Devenish – our South East regional co-ordinator, and Natalie Elphicke.
On the last day of Conference we took over the main stage. Fiona Hodgson – our Vice Chairman – explained the year’s progress to party members, recalling the origins of the CPC and explaining the huge role that we have to play in the preparation for a 2015 General Election. Oliver Letwin then took over once more, chairing a series of panels on:
- Productivity – with Ross Warburton (of Warburton’s), Tim Campbell (Founder of the Bright Ideas Trust) and Amber Rudd (MP for Hastings and Rye);
- Ageing – with Tom Wright (Chief Executive of Age UK), Diana Moran (the Green Goddess and Age UK Ambassador); and Dan Poulter (Doctor and MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich); and
- Cities, Towns and Villages of the Future – with George Clarke (Restoration Man and Ambassador for The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment), Shaun Bailey (Big Society Ambassador); and Nicola Blackwood (MP for Oxford West and Abingdon).
Now that we are back in the office, the team is working hard on the main programme: putting the finishing touches on our next Discussion brief – on Poverty – and reading the huge number of submissions on Natural Resources. We’re also working through the large pile number of business cards that were handed to us at Conference by excited new recruits.
And we are planning for the next conference – our CPF Winter Conference at Scalford Hall. Hopefully we will see many of you there!