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Compassionate Conservatism is alive and well in Brum; TORIES.

Byline: IRON ANGLE

It's been 75 years since the Tories last gathered in Birmingham for their annual conference. But the passage of time has done little to change the big issues of the day.

In 1933, Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin made the short trip from his Black Country constituency to warn the party faithful about the dire plight of the British and American economies. The Great Depression, triggered four years earlier by the Wall Street Crash, was driving down stock markets while Governments across the western world grappled with the twin evils of inflation and stagnation.

The Conservatives had performed creditably in the General Election a couple of years before, winning every seat in Birmingham.

But the party was not in power on its own. Baldwin had to play second fiddle to Labour's Ramsay MacDonald in a National Government and would not become prime minister for another two years.

Birmingham 2008, and the similarities are astounding. A global crisis triggered in America, an unpopular government led by an unpopular prime minister and a general election some two years away.

But the opening session of this year's conference hardly presented any signs of urgency. The event got underway when an anonymous man in a suit strolled on to the stage and told a joke. Well, tried to tell a joke. Hadn't last week's Labour conference been awful, he asked?

Bickering, backstabbing arguments..... just like a Newcastle United board room meeting. Hardly a rib-tickler, but it got the desired effect.

Tory party chairman Caroline Spelman opened with. "They said we couldn't get above 40 per cent in the polls." Then, wisely, given the latest polls indicating a drop in Tory support, Mrs Spelman demanded no complacency on the long march to power.

We enjoyed contributions from a black farmer, an Islamic Relief Aid founder and the singers Black Voices.

Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, reputed to be one of only two black farmers in Britain, is the prospective Tory candidate for Chippenham. Mr Emmanuel Jones was born in Small Heath, although you wouldn't know from his accent.

Jones, the first non-tie wearer of the day, said his family had been "Veraah, veraah, poor", with 11 in a small one-up-one down terrace. He didn't say he had been lucky not to have slept in a cardboard box, but you got the picture. He even had a dream when he was small, watching his daddy dig his allotment. He wanted to be a farmer. And you know what, because Tories believe anything is possible with hard work, he became a farmer.

Is this man a future leader of the Conservative Party? Stranger things have happened. Well, not much stranger.

In fact, there is something stranger. Who would have thought that William Hague, a walking disaster when leader of the Conservative Party, would be back in a prominent position in the shadow cabinet and looking forward at last to getting into government?

And it is safe now to mention the D-word. For years, Tories had to speak in code about Benjamin Disraeli the inventor of One Nation Toryism. To whisper the D-word in the days of Mrs Thatcher was regarded as impossibly wet.

Hague praised Disraeli, fellow shadow cabinet member David Willetts praised Disraeli, Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby alluded to Disraeli. Caroline Spelman said the Conservatives had to appeal to the middle ground. No one hissed or booed.

Compassionate Conservatism lives in Birmingham. The One Nation Tories are back in the ascendency, at last.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 29, 2008
Words:579
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