ONE of the thorniest issues of this year's conference reached another stage yesterday, when delegates wishing to take part in tomorrow's economy and taxation debate covering value-added tax on fuel put in their requests to speak.
Among them was Jack Richardson, the county councillor from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, featured by the Independent, who is determined to warn the Government about the folly of its ways. But there is no guarantee he will get his chance.
He has gone as far as he can. Yesterday he filled in the white slip asking to speak and handed it to the stewards. Whether he gets a four-minute slot before the Chancellor makes his centre-piece address is now up to them.
His words will make for painful listening. When asked which points he would like to cover, he wrote: 'The electoral effects of what is considered to be a regressive tax.'
He will know if his slip is chosen tomorrow morning. After making his bid, he listened to John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, wind up a debate which did not contain one critical word on rail privatisation. Then he went off to take in the exhibition and fringe, and to begin penning the speech he would like to make.
It will highlight his experience on the doorsteps in a recent council by-election when natural Tory supporters told him, one after the other, they could no longer vote for a party which taxed heating bills.
He believes the measure must be stopped before it is too late: such is the depth of opposition he has witnessed already that he is convinced VAT on fuel will cost the Tories more votes than the poll tax ever did.
The Government cannot say it was not warned.
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