Tories gather for spring conference

Michael Howard is attending his first conference as Conservative Party leader this weekend.

The Tory annual spring conference is taking place in Harrogate and delegates have started arriving in the North Yorkshire town.

Mr Howard is expected to receive a warm welcome from party members, having presided over improved morale and a sharp increase in donations to the party, since taking over from Iain Duncan Smith last November.

Mr Howard will be outlining Tory plans for local, London mayoral and European elections this June. The elections will be seen as an indicator of performance ahead of the General Election next year.

More detailed policies and spending plans from the shadow cabinet are expected to be unveiled during the conference. Mr Howard will deliver his keynote address on Sunday.

Ahead of the Tory conference, Labour issued a stark warning about Conservative spending plans, claiming that they would lead to thousands of job cuts in the police and armed services.

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Paul Boateng, insisted that the transport system would suffer under the Tories, with cuts of £570 million, the equivalent of cutting the entire Highways Agency investment budget for motorways and trunk roads.

Union activists have also gathered in Harrogate to demonstrate against Tory plans to slash the public spending budget.

“Spending cuts like those being talked up by the Tories will take us back to the bad old days the country rejected at two general elections,” Tony Woodley, general secretary of the TGWU, commented.

The unions claim that £18 billion will be cut from public services if the Conservatives win the next general election.

The Conservative spring conference will be followed by Labour’s next week in Manchester and the Liberal Democrats’ the week after in Southport.