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Entrepreneurs Panel

Michael Oliver
Debbie Pierce
Steve Purdham
David Pollock
Laura Tenison
Jeremy Roberts
Jennie Johnson
Tony Caldeira
Julie Meyer
Brian Hay
Richard O'Sullivan
Charlie Mullins

Cat and mouse

David Cameron looks like the cat that got the cream despite the fact that he faces a winter of economic crisis after the party conferences.

The sun may have shone on Labour in Liverpool but Ed Miliband’s attempt to define himself left the “predatory” business community offended and voters uncertain in equal measure.

Meanwhile in Manchester the Prime Minister and his Chancellor managed to stick to Plan A for the economy whilst loosening the purse strings for job creating measures that have gone down well, particularly in the North West.

Sticking with the feline theme that I began with, another cat featured at the conference in Manchester. The one referred to by the kitten heel wearing Theresa May.

The Home Secretary claimed an illegal immigrant had avoided deportation because he owned one. The Human Rights Act must go said Mrs May without a paws in her speech [groan –ed].

This was too much for Ken Clarke who has always warmed himself by the hearth of anything to do with Europe. “Laughable and child-like” was his description of Mrs May’s account of the legal proceedings.

The importance of this typical conference cat flap was the intervention of Big Tabby Cameron who came down fi rmly on the side of Theresa. Ken’s days in high offi ce are numbered I fear.

I regret it because he is a thoroughly civilised politician with plenty of rough edges. The age of the smooth suits is upon us.

As always the fate of the Government will lie with the economy. The only mistake Cameron made in Manchester was over advice he was going to give people to cut their personal debt. He changed tack as the spectre of deserted shops loomed up in the minds of his spin doctors.

The power of the governing party to deliver was shown throughout the conference. Enterprise zones for Warton in Lancashire and Brough in East Yorkshire, stricken by job cuts announced by BAE Systems. Final funding for the new bridge across the Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes and major science investment at the Daresbury laboratories. It all helped to create a sense of hope in a very gloomy economic climate.

By contrast Labour is still coming to terms with the impotence of opposition. The public either isn’t listening or still blames the party for the economic malaise.

Ed Miliband may have the germ of an idea about unfair capitalism, a short-term mentality amongst investors and the need to be tougher on bank profi ts. But, like the rushed announcement on student tuition fees, they were ideas that were not thought through.

A senior Labour MP told me Ed Miliband would be out in a year to be replaced by Yvette Cooper. I don’t believe that because Labour lacks the ruthless touch with leaders that can’t hack it.

Ed will be there for the Prime Ministerial debates in 2015 when he will face a mighty presentational challenge up against the cat that may still have the cream, David Cameron.

As I suspected the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham was a calm affair despite the election and AV voting referendum defeats the party had suffered. Many of the vanquished councillors and former student supporters stayed away, leaving the largely right-wing ministers to report back for the fi rst time in nearly 60 years what Liberals had achieved in government.

The Lib Dems are trapped in the Coalition and must hopethey are making enough of a difference to Tory policy to avoid another hammering at the polls next spring.

7,000 of the 11,000 people at the Tory conference in Manchester were media or lobbyists.

You can easily spot the lobbyists. They are mostly young men. They all wear dark grey suits and have mobile phones permanently clasped to their faces as they tell their bosses back in London that they have managed to corner a minister in the bar of the Midland hotel about their pet subject.

With no serious debate on the conference floor I’m tempted to agree with the excellent backbench Tory MP Paul Maynard. He wants to return to a weekend seaside event that the Tory grassroots could afford. Paul represents Blackpool North.

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