Europe, women, the economy: what we learnt in Manchester

Oliver Wright identifies five key lessons from the Tories' week in the North

The Tories still want to hug the Lib Dems tight – even if their Coalition partners are squirming

One of the striking things about Lib Dem conference was the attacks by senior Liberal Democrats on their Tory partners to appeal to the party faithful. Chris Huhne claimed the Tories "slaver over tax cuts for the rich", while Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said today's Tories were the "descendents of those who sent children up chimneys".

But this week in Manchester has been different. David Cameron told his ministers not to criticise the Lib Dems in their conference speeches and without exception they have stuck to this. Cameron himself went out of his way to praise Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in his speech.

The reason for this is two-fold. In hard economic times Mr Cameron does not want to give the impression to voters that the two parties are squabbling. But he also doesn't see political advantage for the Tories in retaliating – far better to play the statesman and let the Lib Dems look petty.



Cameron has neutralised the old Euro-sceptics but has to watch out for the Class of 2010

At a fringe event on Monday to launch a new book on Conservative thinking, the old big Eurosceptic beasts John Redwood and David Davis made a valiant attempt to stand-up for pre-Cameron conservatism. But it has been clear this week that their days of political influence are waning.

At the same time a poll for the website Conservative Home compiled a list of the most influential Tories. Provocatively, David Cameron came second and in first place was the new intake of Tory MPs in 2010. Unlike their predecessors they are not content to be lobby-fodder for the Government. Just before conference more than 100 MPs – many of them new - turned up for the first meeting of an organisation set up by David Cameron's former spokesman George Eustice. This group represents the new Tory Euro-doubters. They don't have the political baggage of the predecessors – and are much greater threat to the Coalition. Privately the whips are worried.



The economic crisis is influencing all Government policy now

In the past if a Tory Government had been faced with a rebellion from the National Trust and the Tory shires over planning reform its quite likely they would have beat a hasty retreat. But not now. Boosting economic growth is the only game in town. That was clear from George Osborne's speech on Monday and will become even more apparent when the Government unveils its growth strategy in the autumn. Just how sensitive the economic situation is was underlined by the last minute re-writing of the PM's conference speech yesterday. A version sent to the press suggested Mr Cameron wanted people to pay off their credit card debts. But when it was pointed out this would further weaken consumer spending it was hastily removed – with red faces all round.



David Cameron has a problem with women voters – but it is hard for him to do anything about

Mr Cameron started the week with an apology for his laddish remarks at Prime Minister's Questions, but his problems with women are more significant than tone alone. This week has highlighted the problem his party has with the female vote. Research shows that during the early days of the Coalition, Tory support among women was 45 per cent, compared to around 34 per cent of men. But since then it has fallen to below that of men in many polls. Overall levels of "approval" for the Coalition have fallen to 25 per cent among women, 8 per cent lower than for men.

Much of the reason for this is economic. Women have been more affected by Government cuts – of the 38,000 new unemployed over the last quarter, 21,000 were women. The number of women out of work now 1.05 million, the highest since 1988.

How the Government deals with this problem is intractable – all Mr Cameron can hope is that by 2015 the economic situation has improved.



Cameron is still the Conservative's biggest electoral asset

Cameron's speech may have been policy light – but in tone and style it was more effective than that of either Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg. Polling suggests that Cameron he is the only main party leader who can attract floating voters to his party and support from the grassroots is still strong. He even got a cheer in the hall for suggesting it was because he was a Conservative that he supported gay marriage. No mean feat.

News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
i100Most young people can't
Extras
indybest
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Service and Support (Financial Services, ITIL, ORC, TT)

£75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of Service and Support (Financial Ser...

Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, JAXB, ...

Service Delivery Manager - ITIL / ServiceNow / Derivatives

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading Financial Services orga...

Senior Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home