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Digging deep to get our country out of ‘fine mess left by Labour’

October 12, 2012

SMILING THROUGH: Chancellor George and me

FOR me, there were the obvious stars that lit up the conference faithful in Birmingham.

Step forward gutsy, tell-it-straight Prime Minister David Cameron and William Hague, the teenage podium orator who turned into the most astute of foreign secretaries.

I was within touching distance when the Premier addressed a fringe meeting of West Midland MPs and councillors.

On the photo album front, I was lucky enough and privileged to be able to get Chancellor ‘Gorgeous’ George Osborne to pose with me for the camera – smiling, despite the toughest of roads ahead.

HANDS FULL: Tough times ahead for PM David Cameron

Of course, nothing compares to the pop prince welcome and adulation afforded to London’s Olympics Mayor Boris Johnson – now forever labelled BoJo and leadership ‘rival’ to his Old Etonian schoolmate, David.

The Boris lecture was hilarious – in stark contrast to the no-nonsense approach of an embattled prime minister who knows what needs to be done and isn’t afraid to tell people how it really is.

The PM’s talk was of ‘aspiration’ but for me this conference was absolutely an inspiration. We are the party that will get us out of this black hole of debt, left by the last Labour administrations.

The Tory counter attack has to be very much like running a business that’s been in serious trouble. You have to rein it in and sometimes let the staff go in order to give a place the chance to survive – so it’s ready to flourish in the future.

The message was loud and clear – a hard medicine to swallow but the right cure in the end.

Aside from David, William and Boris – I was drawn to Staffordshire-born MP Patrick McLoughlin, who truly knows what it’s like to get his hands dirty.

This son and grandson of coal miners went to agricultural college and toiled for five years ‘on the land’ – before following his family underground as a pit worker at Littleton Colliery in Cannock.

BOTTOM TO TOP: Pit worker to MP for Patrick McLoughlin

Mineworking and Tory politicians were rare bedfellows in the 1980s but Patrick was elected as a councillor on the Cannock Chase District Council for seven years from 1980, and also a county councillor at Stafford from 1981-87. In 1982, he even served as the chairman of the National Young Conservatives.

He unsuccessfully contested Wolverhampton South East at the 1983 General Election, but won a by-election in 1986 for the West Derbyshire seat left vacant by sitting Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

In parliament he served as Under-Secretary of State in the transport department for Margaret Thatcher and held similar positions in employment and trade and industry for John Major.

He switched to the Whips’ Office during the long years of Opposition for the Tories before taking on the Chief Whips’ role for David Cameron after the 2010 election.

After a run-in with House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, the Derbyshire Dales MP found himself Transport Secretary in the September government reshuffle.

He admitted during this week’s party conference that all those years in the Whips’ Office had meant he was seldom called on to speak in public.

Well, I can tell you that when he opens his mouth – it’s worth pinning back your ears and listening. His direct approach has stood him in good stead for having to deal with Sir Richard Branson and the mess surrounding having to cancel the award of the InterCity West Coast franchise, due to major technical flaws in the bidding process.

On HS2 he was quite blunt at conference – bring it on, we have no choice.

When a country has to dig deep to beat the odds, it’s good to have people like Patrick McLoughlin in the trenches to get you out of a hole.

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