Monday 18 May 2009

George Osborne Comes to Keele

It's not everyday you have the second most senior Tory in the land turn up at your university to launch the Conservative's West Midland's European election manifesto. Being a curious chap and always looking for blog filler, I thought I'd go along and see what George Osborne had to say for himself.

The shadow chancellor didn't leave a favourable first impression. It was bad enough being one of the few lefties in a room chock full of Carlton Club wannabes (one
Conservative Future young hopeful was overheard advocating the abolition of parliament "because it's stupid") and having to submit questions in advance, but making us wait an extra 20 minutes when Osborne had been in the building for a while doesn't impress. But still, I'm sure what followed warmed the cockles of those ice-cold Conservative hearts. 

George Osborne suddenly appeared and gave us a dose of the populist spiel we can expect from the Tories between now and June 4th. I think my verbatim notes for the opening section of the speech says it all:
Vote change on June 4th. Signed pledge to clean up European politics. Pledge to bring real change. Every candidate to sign this pledge. Change is needed more than ever. Can understand anger. Apology. Commit to change, broaden change.
Heavy duty stuff. 

At least Osborne eventually brought a little bit of politics to bear. Harking back to the collapse of the Soviet bloc, he said he followed a new Europe take shape after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The European Union that emerged was, in his opinion, "too regulatory, too introverted, too centralising", but there were positives too. For Osborne part of its positive agenda is an enlargement that deepens liberal democratic values and reduces conflict between member states, offers a transnational platform for dealing with climate change, and a million other worthy arguments trotted out in defence of the EU. Osborne added that he didn't want to see votes wasted on fringe parties that "offer no vision, disappear between European elections and have abused the system." Who could he possibly have in mind?

We then hit the questions. I wasn't too surprised mine wasn't chosen (As a trade unionist, why should I vote Conservative? Do trade unions have anything to fear from a Tory government?), which is a shame as those that got past the gatekeeper didn't tax him too much. He was asked whether he supported Turkey's accession to the EU (yes), was committed to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (absolutely), the high and low points of the previous Tory government's foreign policy (in short - loads of highs, lows - grudging acceptance of fault over the Balkan wars, but no mention of Rwanda), and if the Tories would commit to keeping the cap on tuition fees. Unfortunately on this one, the only hard and fast position of Osborne was the calling for a "debate" on the subject.

And that was it. As the excitable CF rabble jostled to have their photos taken with "the next chancellor of the exchequer" we slipped out the door just behind Osborne's very desperate-looking entourage of MEPs and party workers. So there we have it. As press launches go it was smooth and slick and gave the semblance of engagement. It might even tempt some young Tories away from their wine and cheese evenings for some leafleting.

One last observation - carrying the "vote blue, go green" logo on your party-owned 4x4s is not the smartest of moves.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Just thought I'd add a little update thanks to intelligence I received last night.

A little birdie tells me this piece caused a few ruffles amongst Conservative Future. Good.

There's also a few other bits and bobs that deserve to be out there about this glorified wine and cheese society.

Despite being advertised as an open question and answer session with students, the Tories operated a strict door policy. One (very moderate) leading member of Labour Students was denied entry, as was a recently expelled member of the Tories. Sorry guys, you bill something as a public meeting at the university you forgo the right to bar anyone.

Secondly, and rather amusingly, I'm told that the chair of one Conservative Future organisation for a West Midlands town who studies at Keele has not been allowed to join the campus society on the grounds she "might steal their ideas". I can see now why the Tories are justly nicknamed the stupid party.