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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
How radical are the New Tories?

The Camerons at the conference
A new direction - but will it be truly green?

David Cameron wants to appeal to disillusioned voters.

He says the Tories are the radicals now.

To test him out, we sent two Bristol students to their conference in the Politics Bus, and this is their BusLog.

Who are we?

We are two students at the University of Bristol who care about the future of the world.

We come from a house of 13 students who sit up half the night arguing about life, the universe and everything, in the way all good students do!

We want to see whether the Tories are really a radical party now and whether Cameron's idealistic vision of a fair, free and green world can convert us to his way of thinking.

We also want to see how deep this new style runs in the rest of the party faithful, and weather they really believe in the rhetoric.

Day 1 - Monday 2 Oct. So, on Monday morning we packed up the Politics Show's old purple VW camper van and headed down to sunny Bournemouth.

We learnt the van is run entirely on some form or recycled bio diesel - the Beeb were obviously doing there bit for environmentalism, but we were yet to be convinced that the Tories were doing the same.

Police on the sea front
Security brought its own problems

On arrival we got directed by some friendly police to the pass pick up area which was crammed full of people trying to collect their official ID cards which allow delegates and journalists into the secure areas.

However conference organisers, or the police, depending on who you believe, had messed up big time and couldn't cope with the volume of applications they had to process so no passes were waiting for us.

Over the next few days we became well acquainted with that waiting room as we kept returning to check our pass' progress, ultimately to no avail.

We were in good company though in our "fringe events only" experience of the conference - a foreign ambassador was refused his pass too, as was Trevor Phillips of the commission for racial equality along with hundreds of other loyal party members who couldn't get in.

Day 2 - Tuesday 3 Oct

Straight to the pass office - nope!

So we headed off to inspect the lines of pressure group stalls.

Our outright favourite had to be the "shoot to conserve" lobby who claimed that by responsible deer hunting we could save the lives of hundreds of field mice, at least we think that's what they were trying to do.

They were also great as they were cooking up lots of amazing steak and pâté etc which Lizzie was forced to try all of as Sentil is a veggie-shame!

Greening the Blues?

There were differences in attentiveness

Luckily we still had access to a majority of the talks and got to see some of the party hierarchy speak.

A large "climate crisis" centre was one of the focuses of the event to publicise the new green direction of the Tories and highlight the threat of climate change.

Here we watched a debate between Friends of the Earth, energy business spokesmen and Frances Maude, the party chairman.

We left unimpressed as the focus seemed to be on business and the new markets created by the issue.

When Maude was grilled about policy on possible green aviation tax he wriggled out saying they had a commission looking at it but no set policies so far - an excuse given repeatedly by members when we asked them about our concerns.

However we did get lots of yummy free "innocent" smoothies and fair trade coffee.

Corporate sponsorship seemed to be another repeated theme of the conference.

Tuesday afternoon

Blair mask
He apparently wants to be the next Tory leader...

More talks and saw some more stands.

We met someone dressed as Tony Blair asking to become the party's next leader, and someone impersonating Elvis trying to get a blue shark with a green hand bag to be the party's new logo.

Among them were also serious issue groups like those raising awareness of the persecution of Falang Gong practitioners in China, animal testing campaigners and many anti European Union groups.

The range of interests were immense, however this year for the first time "British American Tobacco" didn't have a representative which maybe does symbolise a step forward for the new conservatives.

Tuesday night (this was a monster day)

We went out with a group of young Tories from the Swindon, all of whom were under 30 and were local councillors or prospective parliamentary candidates.

We wanted to see if they were "new" conservatives and if we could relate to them.

They were all polite and interested in what we had to say.

Some seemed very concerned with those less fortunate but thought most problems could be solved through public private partnerships, such as the sponsorship of a Swindon school by the local Honda factory, a stance we disagreed with.

We had some lively debates and think they mostly believed in what they said.

They were proud of consulting the community on local issues and believed in asking about peoples' concerns and making them there policies - a "we will do whatever you want us to" approach which is fine but hardly the visionary idealism, "tough choices" backbone needed in order to change the world.


People walking on Bournemouth sea front
In between the speeches, it was time for a stroll...

The main event today is David Cameron's big talk.

But our passes still aren't here, and there's nothing much on the fringe.

So we jump back in the purple bus and head back to Bristol, listening to Cameron on FiveLive.

We left the conference feeling that the Conservatives are definitely going in the right direction.

They are talking, at least publicly, about the issues we care about - the environment, global poverty and social justice and in doing so they are putting these topics back on the agenda.

They are re-positioning themselves back in the centre ground of British politics, however so far all we have seen is talk with no policies to back them up.

And we remain to be convinced that if you scratch the shiny new surface too hard you won't still find the same old inward looking euro-obsessed party of the past 10 years.

Nice smoothies though!

The Politics Show on Sunday 08 October 2006 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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