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Aside from the axe-wielding Honest George oratory, the hot topic in Manchester is the extraordinary George Osborne backdrop. This must be a first in political stage-management and you have to wonder whether it will also be a last.
What patch of Middle England did they chose? Well we can reveal that it is the fine Oxfordshire market town of Abingdon, home of Radiohead. Forget pebble-dash voters. Osborne placed himself firmly in the shires. Read more
I went to the fringe meeting of MEPs this morning. Like most hacks, I was there in search of a whiff of controversy. To be honest, the gathering wasn’t explosive. The controversial Latvian, Roberts Zile, spoke calmly and convincingly about the “smear” on his reputation (over his attendance at his national Remembrance Day). Read more
Total savings: £7bn a year and £23bn over course of next parliament.
Public sector pay freeze The Tories will recommend a pay freeze in 2011 for 4m public sector workers earning more than about £18,000. This would save about £3.2bn a year. No existing pay settlements will be broken. The 1m lowest paid workers will receive around 2.4 per cent a year increase. Read more
12.32 Well it’s all over. Osborne has left the stage. There was a standing ovation. But it seemed more polite than spontaneous. The audience didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the tough love message, particularly when it came to arguing the 50p tax would have to remain while they squeezed public sector pay. The refrain was “we’re all in this together” and he seemed to mean it. This was a speech for the country, an attempt to show himself as a serious, plain-speaking chancellor in wiating who was not afraid of difficult choices. Let’s see whether voters like the sound of the medicine man.
12.30 (Chris) One other little item. Osborne pledged not to pay tax credits to people earning more than £50k a year, and to support marriage. That bit of the benefits system is actually the last remnant of the old married tax allowance. Read more
Much has been made of David Cameron’s hairshirt edict to the bars inside the Tory cordon at Manchester; no champagne to be served.
But one of my colleagues was baffled to spot two ladies quaffing the fizzy stuff in the Midland hotel yesterday afternoon. How had they escaped the ban? Simple: they were necking prosecco, the Italian equivalent. Genius lateral thinking. Read more
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