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4 October 2010

Conference 2010 Lookahead | Monday 4 October

The who, when and where of today's Conservative party conference.

By Patrick Osgood

Look out for

The biggest speech today will be George Osborne’s address on the economy. The chancellor is expected to mount a trenchant defence of his austerity policy by condemning the Labour government’s financial stewardship, and claim that fiscal responsibility is a mandatory catalyst for a resurgent UK economy. He makes this claim in the face of Ken Clarke’s warning that a double-dip recession remains a possibility.

The now familiar coalition analogy of the deficit of a credit card that must be paid off will be deployed, and Osborne hopes to stir the aspirations of Britons “to have a better life, to get a better job, to give your children a better future. The aspiration to work the extra hour, to play a bigger part of your community, to have a bigger say in your country and it’s future.”

Ian Duncan Smith will also speak today, and is expected to lay out more detail on the reform of the benefits system through a universal credit in 2013, chiming with Osborne’s message of fiscal reponsibility. The full figures will be unveiled in a White Paper later in the autumn.

Signs of trouble

Osborne has announced this morning that Child Benefit will be scrapped by 2013 for higher rate taxpayers, with the money saved being used to pay toward IDS’s welfare reforms. It is not yet clear whether this measure will enjoy universal party support, as many Waitrose mums quietly enjoy the benefit, though Osborne is predictably keen to take measures to address the “regressive” label that has stuck outside blue circles to his emergency budget.

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While making Child Benefit means-tested may address this, it raises the prospect of the Conservatives open to attack as the party who will squeeze the middle-classes to pay for banker’s mistakes. Speculation is now mounting that other universal benefits will be means-tested as the government scrapes for savings and seekd to rebalance the fiscal burden. Expect Osborne’s speech to contain much in the TINA vein; with Cameron having to make use of his PR credentials to sell the latest developments to Tory voters.

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More widely, Osborne’s announcement may attract ire for making the Birmingham event a “cuts conference” in the eyes of the public rather than a celebration of the Conservative’s return to power and promotion of their wide-ranging changes to state provision.

On the fringe

Iain Dale will feature in a British Chambers of Commerce discussion The Big debate: spending cuts and policy changes . Wil the government’s programme secure economic recovery? at 12.30.

The New Statesman hosts events on Big Brands and the “Big Society” at 8.45am, in the appropriate environs of the Starbuck’s coffee house on 125 Colmore Row, and a 1pm event debating Will Schools have too much frredom in a “Big Society”? at the Copthorne Hotel at 1pm that features Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, and Toby Young.

Today’s agenda

“Green Growth”

10:00 21st Century economy – speeches by transport secretary Philip Hammond and universities minister David Willetts

11:30 The economy – speech by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

14:30 Get Britain working – speech by work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

15:45 Environment and climate change – speech by environment secretary Caroline Spelman