David Cameron's speech - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's speech to the Conservative conference.

15:47 Closing his speech, Cameron returns to the theme of optimism. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog," he says. Our best days are ahead of us. But with unemployment up and growth down, how many will feel the same way?

15:45 Now it's health and safety. "Britannia didn't rule the waves with her armbands on," says Cameron, declaring that he has brought "common sense" to government. This speech is a Daily Mail reader's wet dream.

15:43 Cameron mounts a conservative defence of gay marriage. "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a conservative", he says. Applause from the floor.

15:39 In another dig at Labour, Cameron says that the Conservatives don't boo their former leaders, they are proud of them. Loudest applause so far.

15:38 Promising a new "Tory housing revolution", Cameron vows to use the proceeds from the right-to-buy scheme to build new houses.

15:35 Turning to immigration, Cameron says that government is "clamping" down on illegal migrants. But he makes no mention of his unachievable pledge to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

15:34 "Rigour back in education, standards back in schools ... the Conservatives are back in government," says Cameron.

15:34 Cameron says that he wants to see private schools start academies in the state sector. The "apartheid" between the private sector and the state sector must end.

15:30 The education system has been "infected by an ideology that makes excuses for failure," says Cameron. He adds that he is "disguted" by the idea that we should "aim for less for a poor child than a rich child".

15:30 Again refusing to attack Miliband directly, Cameron says that Labour gave us "the casino economy and the welfare society". It falls to the Conservatives to lift the poorest up.

15:29 Responding to his critics, Cameron says: "take your arguments down the job centre because we are going to get Britain back to work."

15:28 Cameron defends the government's planning reforms and rightly notes that just 9 per cent of land is built up.

15:27 Mounting a full-throated attack on EU regulation, Cameron cites a directive on whether diabetics should be allowed to drive.

15:25 He vows to cut employment regulation and accuses critics of forgetting the most important right of all: to have a job in the first place.

15:23 Without referring to Ed Miliband by name, Cameron rebukes the Labour leader. You will not achieve growth by dividing industries into "saints and sinners," he says. In his speech to the Labour conference, Miliband divided companies into "producers and predators".

15:21 Cameron says that it is fair for public sector workers to "work a little longer and pay a little more". What is not fair is to go on strike and hurt the country's recovery.

15:20 Audaciously claiming that the Tories are "the party of the NHS", Cameron says that only the Conservatives promised to increase spending on the health service.

15:19 "This is a one-nation deficit reduction plan from a one-nation party," Cameron says.

15:18 The richest are bearing the burden of austerity, claims Cameron. But, as the IFS has repeatedly showed, the coalition's measures hit the poorest hardest.

15:15 Cheers as Cameron promises that under his leadership "this country will never join the euro". But is anyone really surprised?

15:14 Cameron backs Plan A. "Our plan is right and it will work," he says.

15:13 This wasn't a "normal recession," says Cameron, it was "a debt crisis". And excessive government borrowing was primarily to blame.

15:11 The threat to the economy and to Britain is as serious in 2008, says Cameron. Even "mighty America's" ability to meet its debts is in question.

15:08 Cameron is sounding and looking unusually tired. On the bright side, it will counter those who claim he doesn't put the hours in.

15:06 Cameron attacks the politics of decline. It was depressing, he says, that some people thought not only that we shouldn't take action in Libya but that we couldn't.

15:04 Cameron turns to Libya and says we should proud of the role Britain played in helping Libyans "take back their country".

15:03 Turning to the Bible for inspiration, Cameron says that this is a country and a party that "never walks on by".

15:02 Cameron jokes that Osborne's book of choice is The Man Who Would Be King and that Boris's is The Joy Of Cycling. But after yesterday, he quips, there should be a group reading of Mog The Cat.

15:01 A rather hoarse-sounding Cameron praises the No to AV campaign: "you kicked that excuse for a voting system off the political agenda for a generation".

15:00 His emphasis is clear from the start: "In these difficult times, it is leadership that we need".

14:59 Cameron finally takes to the stage to the sound of The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done".

14:46 Large parts of the hall remain empty, a sign that fewer and fewer party activists are attending the conference.

14:25 Cameron has reportedly been delayed and may not start speaking until 2:55pm. A few more rewrites, perhaps?

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Empey: Northern Ireland likely to be without government for a year

The former UUP leader says Gerry Adams is now in "complete control" of Sinn Fein and no longer wants to be "trapped" by the Good Friday Agreement

The death of Martin McGuinness has made a devolution settlement in Northern Ireland even more unlikely and has left Gerry Adams in "complete control" of Sinn Fein, the former Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey has said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the New Statesman on the day of McGuinness’ death, the UUP peer claimed his absence would leave a vacuum that would allow Adams, the Sinn Fein president, to consolidate his hold over the party and dictate the trajectory of the crucial negotiations to come. Sinn Fein have since pulled out of power-sharing talks, leaving Northern Ireland facing the prospect of direct rule from Westminster or a third election in the space of a year. 

Empey, who led the UUP between and 2005 and 2010 and was briefly acting first minister in 2001, went on to suggest that, “as things stand”, Northern Ireland is unlikely to see a return to fully devolved government before the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is complete -  a process which could take up to a year to complete.

“Adams is now in complete control of Sinn Fein,” he said, adding that it remained unclear whether McGuinness’ successor Michelle O’Neill would be “allowed to plough an independent furrow”. “He has no equal within the organisation. He is in total command of Sinn Fein, and that is the way it is. I think he’s even more powerful today than he was before Martin died – by virtue of there just being nobody there.”

Asked what impact the passing of McGuinness, the former deputy first minister and leader of Sinn Fein in the north, would have on the chances of a devolution settlement, Empey, a member of the UUP’s Good Friday Agreement negotiating delegation, said: “I don’t think it’ll be positive – because, for all his faults, Martin was committed to making the institutions work. I don’t think Gerry Adams is as committed.

Empey added that he believed Adams did not want to work within the constitutional framework of the Good Friday Agreement. In a rebuke to nationalist claims that neither Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire nor Theresa May can act as honest or neutral brokers in power-sharing negotiations given their reliance on the DUP’s eight MPs, he said: “They’re not neutral. And they’re not supposed to be neutral.

“I don’t expect a prime minister or a secretary of state to be neutral. Brokenshire isn’t sitting wearing a hat with ostrich feathers – he’s not a governor, he’s a party politician who believes in the union. The language Sinn Fein uses makes it sound like they’re running a UN mandate... Gerry can go and shout at the British government all he likes. He doesn’t want to be trapped in the constitutional framework of the Belfast Agreement. He wants to move the debate outside those parameters, and he sees Brexit as a chance to mobilise opinion in the republic, and to be seen standing up for Irish interests.”

Empey went on to suggest that Adams, who he suggested exerted a “disruptive” influence on power-sharing talks, “might very well say” Sinn Fein were “’[taking a hard line] for Martin’s memory’” and added that he had been “hypocritical” in his approach.

“He’ll use all of that,” he said. “Republicans have always used people’s deaths to move the cause forward. The hunger strikers are the obvious example. They were effectively sacrificed to build up the base and energise people. But he still has to come to terms with the rest of us.”

Empey’s frank assessment of Sinn Fein’s likely approach to negotiations will cast yet more doubt on the prospect that devolved government might be salvaged before Monday’s deadline. Though he admitted Adams had demanded nothing unionists “should die in a ditch for”, he suggested neither party was likely to cede ground. “If Sinn Fein were to back down they would get hammered,” he said. “If Foster backs down the DUP would get hammered. So I think we’ve got ourselves a catch 22: they’ve both painted themselves into their respective corners.”

In addition, Empey accused DUP leader Arlene Foster of squandering the “dream scenario” unionist parties won at last year’s assembly election with a “disastrous” campaign, but added he did not believe she would resign despite repeated Sinn Fein demands for her to do so.

 “It’s very difficult to see how she’s turned that from being at the top of Mount Everest to being under five miles of water – because that’s where she is,” he said. “She no longer controls the institutions. Martin McGuinness effectively wrote her resignation letter for her. And it’s very difficult to see a way forward. The idea that she could stand down as first minister candidate and stay on as party leader is one option. But she could’ve done that for a few weeks before Christmas and we wouldn’t be here! She’s basically taken unionism from the top to the bottom – in less than a year”.

Though Foster has expressed regret over the tone of the DUP’s much-criticised election campaign and has been widely praised for her decision to attend Martin McGuinness’ funeral yesterday, she remains unlikely to step down, despite coded invitations for her to do so from several members of her own party.

The historically poor result for unionism she oversaw has led to calls from leading loyalists for the DUP and UUP – who lost 10 and eight seats respectively – to pursue a merger or electoral alliance, which Empey dismissed outright.

“The idea that you can weld all unionists together into a solid mass under a single leadership – I would struggle to see how that would actually work in practice. Can you cooperate at a certain level? I don’t doubt that that’s possible, especially with seats here. Trying to amalgamate everybody? I remain to be convinced that that should be the case.”

Accusing the DUP of having “led unionism into a valley”, and of “lashing out”, he added: “They’ll never absorb all of our votes. They can try as hard as they like, but they’d end up with fewer than they have now.”

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.