George Osborne speech as-it-happened

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Osborne speech as it happens
Osborne speech as it happens

11:27 - Good morning and welcome to the first of our Conservative conference live blogs. Osborne should be on in a few minutes, after one of those interminable roundtable chat things they insist on doing at conference. Amber Rudd just kicked off the 'attack the Lib Dems' chapter by referring to one of her Tory colleagues, Michael Fallon, as "the real business secretary". I'll be with you until Osborne steps down, when we'll assess what he's said and if it'll get him out from under the funk of Budget 2012.

11:36 - There is a clock in front of Fallon as he talks to business leaders. It is counting down from 14 minutes. Presumably, that's when Osborne comes on. Or perhaps they kill a volunteer, I have no idea. At the moment, Fallon, who was installed in the Department for Business to keep Vince Cable on a leash, is pretending to be interested in employee terms and company values. All business leaders and politicians have adopted this hand movement I associate with Ed Miliband - fingers pointed into each other, like some indecisive monk.

11:40 - Here's our story on what we expect from Osborne's speech this year. It suggests the chancellor will announce more spending cuts - in the voter friendly area of benefits - to hit his fiscal targets. Many economists warn against that, but it looks like Osborne is determined to hit his targets, and is prepared to risk spooking the markets.

11:42 - In opposition Osborne's speech was the highlight of the conference season. It was far more politically important than Cameron's. He played chicken with Gordon Brown, and won, when he announced plans to cut inheritance tax and scared the then PM off a general election. That was historic - if it had gone another way, he might have been in No 10 during  the financial crisis. And then he coined the 'we're all in this together' line just before the 2010 general election. He's in trouble right now and his plan doesn't seem to be working, but Osborne should never be underestimated. He might have something up his sleeve.


11:47 - The business leaders leave, mercifully, so Farron can tell a story. Sweet lord. He talks about an airport being behind schedule and over-budget in Europe. He says his German counterpart said he wanted the team from the Olympics to finish the airport. Strong support for that from the hall. Farron announces Paul Deighton, the man who delivered the Olympics.

11:49 - Deighton is here to introduce Osborne. He seems a little smug, frankly, even if he has reason to be.

11:51 - Deighton makes an interesting point, saying the relationship between public and private can be done easily as long as you make sure the structure is there to harness their relative powers. He says there is a potential blue print there. There were 2,000 companies at the top of the supply chain in partnership with 19 government departments.

11:53 - He insists 'Made in Britain' is a strong brand, at home and overseas. "I'm thrilled to be joining the government," he says. He believes in the plan and is happy to introduce the "man behind the plan... my  new boss.... George Osborne".

11:54 - Osborne thanks Deighton for the introduction and the Olympics. He then thanks the people in his department. It's like the most boring Oscar speech of all time. He says in the past Conservative governments buckled in the face of union threats. But in 1981, Thatcher "did not give up". I think we can all see where he's going here. "We here resolve," he says. "We shall overcome." Getting a little Braveheart.

11:57 - "We will finish the job." Now he reminds us of that phrase, 'we're all in this together'. Osborne says it was a risk to tell people the truth ahead of an election. "Some say we paid a price for that," he adds. The implication is they would have won a majority if only they weren't honourable.

12:00 - He says we're still all in it together. One section of society cannot bear the most. "Those with the most should contribute the most" - some applause. All his Budgets increased the price on the richest. The hall sounds unconvinced. This is a sensible angle for Osborne to take. He can't afford to abandon the centre ground after Miliband's 'one nation' speech. Now Osbornbe justifies the 50p tax rate decision. He earns alot of applause for cutting it, because he "knew" it drove away the rich. He knew nothing of the sort, of course, because he didn't wait for the studies, but never mind.

12:02 - It's all very defensive so far, as Osborne defends his records. 'We're in this together' speaks to the workers who leaves and sees his neighbours sleeping off their dependency on benefits. "We represent not the fractional interests of organised labour." He turns Labour's rhetoric on itself, saying they "divide" the country. Modern Conservatives back the owner of the corner shop, the teacher prepared to defy her union to take an after school club or the commuter who leaves home before the children are up.

12:04 - "That's what being a party of 'one nation' is all about. It is risible to pretend you can be 'one nation' when all you do is repeat the words over and over again. He wants to pretend he is moving to the centre when he's moving to the left. You can imagine Disraeli's disappointment. Moments after realising there is such a thing as reincarnation he comes back as Ed Miliband."

12:06 - Osborne praises Cameron's "quiet revolution", behind the daily debate, where he fixes the public sector and the British economy, our relationship with Europe, etc. "Of course the mid-term politics are difficult. But I'd rather have these difficulties than wake up like Tony Blair did after a decade in power and realise you haven't changed anything at all."

12:08 - Lukewarm support in the hall when Osnorne says they could only have done this coalition. The Tory party doesn't want "the blissful irrelevance of opposition". He says there's more hard times this autumn. The oil price is higher, the banking crisis was worse than thought, the disaster of the euro is very real. He says that when he goes to the IMF he is seen as a country which is part of the solution, not the problem. Now Osborne starts rehashing the standard arguments against borrowing more.

12:11 - It's telling that Osborne is the one doing the 'one nation' response, rather than Cameron. Perhaps they want the PM to stand above the fray. Or perhaps he'll attack it in his speech. Osborne is back on the subject now. Miliband didn't mention the deficit at all during his long speech last week. "People marvel at his feat of memory. And so did I. He spoke for over an hour about the problems of Britain and forgot to mention we had a Labour government running the country for over a decade." He also forgot to say sorry.

12:13 - Osborne admits he needs to control the pace of spending cuts but he says there are "hard choices" to come. He writes off  a "wealth tax" - our future is about encouraging  wealth, not penalising it. "Nor am I going to introduce a new tax on people's homes. It would be sold as a mansion tax but you'd soon find most of the homes in the country labelled a mansion. "It's not a mansion tax it's a home tax and this party of home ownership will have no truck with it". Big applause.

12:18 - Osborne says he will make sure the rich will not evade tax (this is said every year). But then he says he needs to cut more government spending. So there is no detail at all on taxing the rich more. If we want to limit cuts to departments then we need more savings from the welfare bill, he says.

12:20 - How could a country which wants to compete in the world economy explain that it cuts its budgets on schools and science because it couldn't control welfare? The UK faces "the shock of the future". The economic crisis has accelerated the process by which Asia, Africa and the Americas become more prosperous. Free enterprise is lifting people out of poverty faster than government aid programmes. It's good news for everyone, as it makes new markets for British exports. Eastern democracies are being outworked, outsmarted, by new economies. Some western countries won't keep up, because they won't change welfare and tax. "I am determined that will not be the Britain I leave to my children, or you leave to yours."

12:23 - "Our entire economic policy is an enterprise policy" he says. Today he will set out proposals for a radical change to employment law.

12:24 - Adrian Beecroft appears as the rabbit in his hat. There will be shares for workers in exchange for weaker employee protections, and the government's won't charge any capital gains tax on the shares. Interesting.

12:27 - He sounds like he's summing up now. "We'll pay our way in the world," he promises, mixing an excitable tone with an unaffected face.

12:28 - He promises he has a modern industrial policy and "I am its champion - let's get on with it". He insists he does this for the commuter, the shopkeeper, the teacher. "They strive for a better life. We strive to help them. We knew two years ago the task we were taking on was a great one. The future prosperity of our country is in question in a way it has not been before in my lifetime. This year has shown we are a country confronted on all sides by great challenges. But we are also a country that can do incredible things. When we make the hard decisions we do not do so alone. Because we have the British people at our side."

12:30 - And with that Osborne finishes his speech.

12:32 - There were some effective elements to that speech and it was at its best when he returned tO the 'we're all in this together' line. But it was let down by a lack of details in the section on taxing the rich. However, the John Lewis style plan was audacious. He even finished it by saying 'workers of the world unite' although he missed out the extra element - 'to lose your employment rights'. It's an interesting model which we'll obviously need to see more details of, but which plays a couple of interesting political games. Namely, it joins mutual ownership with reduced rights, which will confuse a few in the Labour ranks. Osborne's refusal to allow a mansion tax also revealed he feels little need to be polite to the Lib Dems, despite praising coalition earlier in the speech. Finally, the use of the shopkeeper/teacher etc examples showed he had taken on some of Lord Ashcroft's ideas around targeting "strivers". OK, that's enough from me. We'll have full news coverage up on site in a moment. See you tomorrow for the Return of the King: Boris Johnson.

 

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