It was a grey, blustery and rain-soaked Manchester this week as we gathered for our annual autumn conference. I am delighted to report, however, that the atmosphere was thoroughly upbeat and positive.
I was there as Party Vice Chairman for communities, engaging with our many affiliate groups and sister parties from around the world; Cyprus, Italy, India, the Tamils, the Caribbean and more – all seeking to strengthen our ties after Brexit. At every reception I attended the strong level of support was palpable, certainly buoyed-up by widespread condemnation of those who seek to prevent or delay our departure from the EU.
Bold new policies were announced from the main stage of the Conference, effectively setting out a draft Queens Speech for the next sitting of Parliament. The benefits for Maidstone & The Weald are direct; an ambitious £25 billion fund to improve the UK’s strategic road network (a share of which I shall be lobbying to be spent here in Kent); major investment in full fibre broadband nationwide and the implementation of the faster 5G cell phone network - which should benefit rural areas like Nettlestead, Frittenden and Benenden.
I also hugely welcome an extra £220 million being made available for bus services. This resonates with our campaigns in Maidstone and The Weald to protect and improve bus services like the No. 28 and No. 79, which are lifelines to our communities in Marden and Penenden Heath.
We also heard more about Government plans for our NHS, with the building of 40 new hospitals, and the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers, some of whom will be deployed to key locations in Maidstone Town Centre.
At one point last week there were doubts that this conference would take place at all. I am therefore very pleased that, in the face of adversity, we have arrived at a serious centre-ground policy agenda for our county’s domestic needs in the coming Parliament.