04 OCT 2018

Conservative Party Conference 2018

The BBC's Assistant Political Editor Norman Smith was wearing a construction worker's hard hat as he delivered his morning bulletin from the Conservative conference on Monday this week. He explained it was to avoid flying rocks and mortars in a Tory Party war zone; and yet the calm and collegiate scene in the background behind him belied his journalistic mischief-making.

That there's a wide range of opinion about the manner of our departure from the EU, and our ensuing future relationship with the bloc, is unarguable. That's unsurprising considering the complexity and multilateral significance of all the issues involved. But conference his week was not the open combat our broadcasters and national press were seemingly hoping for.

To the contrary, I detected a unity of purpose in a Party which, unlike the others, is determined to deliver Brexit at the end of March next year and to make it work for all parts of the United Kingdom, not least for Maidstone & The Weald I might add!

To ensure that Jeremy Corbyn is personally kept well clear of ever governing this country is another underlying and unifying purpose, and unashamedly so. But the view from Birmingham was not unhealthy. Colleagues know full well that people want us to give them reasons to keep us in government, instead of reasons not to vote for someone else.

I have always believed that in order to make a success of Brexit we must not become consumed by it. Supporting that approach is a new generation of party members; at one fringe event I was chairing, for example, over half of those in the room were attending their first conference and over 20% of all conference attendees were under 25. They want us to focus on the big issues confronting our nation; long-term NHS funding, skills and education, housing and a clean environment and I am very much with them.

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