Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 16:18 UK

Tory conference at-a-glance

Tim Yeo
Senior Tory MP Tim Yeo, pictured right with knife and fork, is a well known supporter of environmental issues, so it should have come as little surprise that he believes in that old adage, waste not want not. But passers-by might have thought he had gone a bit too far when he took his breakfast fry-up outside with him after a fire alarm at his Birmingham city centre hotel. And, some may wonder, while he was demonstrating he was in tune with these credit crunch times, is it entirely Cameroonian to have your own personal plate holder?


Shadow chancellor George Osborne pledged that, under a Tory government, there would be a two-year freeze on council tax. The Conservatives have also promised that, if they win power, they will abolish plans for a third runway at Heathrow. Instead, transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers proposed a 20bn high-speed rail link from London St Pancras to Leeds, via Birmingham and Manchester. Meanwhile, shadow chancellor George Osborne has offered to co-operate with the government over framing new laws to encourage financial stability, following the nationalisation of Bradford & Bingley. Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley is to outline a "completely different arrangement" for the NHS. And shadow education secretary Michael Gove is to promise free teacher training for former armed forces personnel.


The economy. This must be the week when the Tories answer any nagging doubts in voters' minds that they lack the experience and the know-how to fix Britain's ailing economy. George Osborne helped to revive the party last year with his inheritance tax pledge. But he arguably faces an even tougher task on Monday in convincing voters that the Tories - the free market evangelists of years gone by - are just the people to rein the excesses of the City and design a new financial system to prevent the current meltdown happening again. Mr Osborne is pinning his hopes on a package of measures unveiled at the weekend to ensure future financial stability. But he will face tough questions about how this will work in practice.


Ok, not quite Sharon and Ozzie, but we've all been given an exclusive back-stage pass to conference thanks to the all-new Reali-tory TV, part of the Tories' 250,000 website redesign. Seconds after his speech, we heard from George on the audience's take on his speech:

"They liked some of the things I had to say on the City, about some of the hard messages we had to give... They really liked the announcement we can freeze the council tax for two years... Pointing the finger of blame at Gordon Brown went down well, but that's the truth. It was a great speech to give. Fantastic hall. Great audience..." Cue a walk-on appearance from the fresh-faced head of the family. Not Sharon, but Dave [Cameron]. "It was absolutely perfect... It was brilliantly done." The two then disappeared for more TV interviews.


Francis Maude has predicted Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton will contest the 2012 US presidential elections. Though keeping strictly neutral in public about this year's contest, the shadow Cabinet Office minister said he thought Republican John McCain would win but only serve four years. Mr Maude attended the Democratic convention in Denver and listened to Barack Obama's speech, though he was most wowed by Bill Clinton's


The conference slogan "plan for change" has not gone down well with one former Tory press officer. Ashish Prashar says in the New Statesman that the party may have "embraced" US Presidential candidate Barack Obama's slogan but "Cameron's top table is even more elitist, looking like something out of a 1960s American boardroom, pre-civil rights movement". The party brushed off the criticism, saying Mr Prashar "praised David Cameron to the skies all the time when he was working with the Conservatives and never once complained about how the party was run."


They may once have made Triumph motorbikes down the road in Coventry, but the T-word is being avoided like the plague this week in Birmingham. There was a real sense of anticipation, excitement even, as the Tory troops gathered on Sunday. There were so many representatives (never "delegates" at a Tory conference) trying to cram into the hall for William Hague, they had to open up an overspill hall, which promptly spilled over. But the one thing they must avoid - at this time of economic crisis - is Triumphalism. David Cameron said as much in his speech. Poor old Boris Johnson - had to beg for permission to list achievements, promising to do it in a "in a non-Triumphalist way".


Hundreds of Conservatives joined regular worshippers for a special church service at Birmingham Town Hall. But was there a special prayer for embattled Tory chairman Caroline Spelman? She was on stage to open proceedings. At the end, and apparently without warning, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, offered a special prayer for those brave souls standing as political candidates. He pointedly included criticism of the media for its, at times, "excessive and intrusive" scrutiny.


Irwin Stelzer, the economist and confidant of Rupert Murdoch, questioned Labour's desire to bring in cooking lessons for primary school pupils. He told a fringe meeting that ministers had said they wanted to avoid creating a generation who ate microwave meals. But, he said, in his experience it was people who worked long, hard hours and got home late who ate microwave meals - so a generation of microwave meal eaters might actually be a good sign for economy.


"He struck the right tone for the times... He nailed the lie that he is a friend of greedy bankers... He had a policy that will grab headlines." Telegraph political editor, Andrew Porter.

"This was a significant speech and a political hit for the shadow chancellor... I think he got the tone right too: severe, with no smirks... What about the content? Lots of contradictions, lots of good lines with not much detail." The Guardian's Julian Glover.

"This was new, serious George... Osborne was so keen to demonstrate his seriousness that he kept his trademark smirk under wraps. He even bit his lip during one bout of applause in a seeming attempt to stop it from breaking through." The Spectator's James Forsyth.

No reaction from the Mirror's Kevin Maguire yet - perhaps he's too distracted by this Tory take on David Miliband's fruitful past week.


There were cheers for shadow business secretary Alan Duncan as he pledged to suspend the enforced closure of post offices - the "lifeblood of our communities". He also said nuclear power "with a fair and reasonable climate for investors, but without subsidies" must play a part in addressing the "looming energy gap", alongside other "carbon-friendly" fuels like renewable energy, carbon-free coal and cleaner gas.



Conservative leader David Cameron tells Andrew Neil there is no money for tax cuts.


London Mayor Boris Johnson tells Andrew Neil he is lucky to be in his job and may stand for a second term.

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