From Sunday 29 September to Wednesday 2 October, an estimated 11,500 people gathered in Manchester for the annual Conservative party conference.
The event’s agenda included creating a “safe and prosperous Britain”, which would be achieved through a focus on “championing a new economy”, and “reforming our great public services”, while being encompassed by the conference’s strap-line: “Let’s get Brexit done.”
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced her goal to end free movement of the people, and introduced an Australian-style points-based system in a speech for the Conservatives.
Her speech revealed plans to recruit 20,000 new police officers to protect the streets of the UK, quoting and agreeing with Margaret Thatcher’s “support [for] the police.”
Patel also hailed the Conservatives as the “party of law and order”, which came just over a week after the Supreme Court found the government guilty of illegally proroguing parliament.
In terms of education, Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, shifted focus from universities to increased funding for apprenticeships, and alternative further education, in what he described as a “revolution in technical education.”
In his speech to the conference, Williamson focused on “the other 50 per cent” of the population who don’t go to University. He claimed they were previously ignored by Labour, and stated that he will not obsess over “Blairite targets” of university attendance.
Instead, Williamson promised to make vocational and technical education the first choice for anybody with the “aptitude, desire, and interest to pursue it,” and vowed to “supercharge” further education, by overtaking Germany in opportunities for education by 2029.
Having been in the position for just ten weeks, Williamson has an optimistic vision for the future of education in the UK, however, some of his promises (e.g. secondary schools receiving £5000 per pupil) have already been doubted by critics following the conference.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, was equally optimistic, asserting that the Conservatives will “unite this country”. His first conference in the position after being appointed in July 2019, Javid vowed the Conservatives are the “workers” party, as he announced plans to make the UK the first major economy to end low pay.
His plans included setting the National Living Wage to match two-thirds of median earnings by 2024, from £8.21 an hour up to £10.50 an hour according to current forecasts, and it was also announced that the age threshold for National Living Wage would be brought down to cover all workers over the age of 21.
Javid’s speech to the conference was peppered with claims to have “taken back control of our financial destiny, just as we [took] back control of our laws and borders”, as he revealed his “new economic plan” for “a new [era]”, and placed an importance on “protecting our United Kingdom” through his proposed changes to spending plans.
These pro-unionist sentiments were also a focus for the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who rejected prospects of another Scottish independence referendum, something which Johnson claimed could be the reason for an SNP plan to “propel” Jeremy Corbyn into office, in what was described as a potential “Kremlin coup”.
In his final comments to the conference, Johnson said: “Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s bring our country together,” as he wrapped up his speech.
Image: Richter Frank-Jurgen via Flickr