The chancellor pledged new investment in help-to-buy and the “northern powerhouse”, but much of Philip Hammond’s speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester was dedicated to a full-scale attack on Labour and the party’s economic policies.
The Conservatives are very worried about Labour
Hammond’s speech was striking in how much was dedicated to attacking Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – calling them “dinosaurs who had broken out of their cases”. He spent most of the first half of his speech talking about the 1970s and Britain as “the sick man of Europe”, as well as the political regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Hammond said the party’s popularity was based on “preying on people’s worries, manipulating their fears, luring them with false promises … It’s a wicked and cynical business offering superficially simple solutions to complex challenges”.
However, he said the Tories must “acknowledge the weariness at the long slog back from Labour’s recession” without specifically mentioning austerity.
Conservatives must re-make the arguments for capitalism and free trade
Hammond made a similar argument that the prime minister made in her speech to the Bank of England last week, that the Conservatives needed to restore people’s faith in capitalism. He said Conservatives had to “step forward and make those arguments again because a new generation is being tempted down a dangerous path”.
He said the Tories needed to show that Britain’s economy was working – to counter McDonnell’s claim that the economy is “fundamentally broken”.
Extra investment for the north of England
Hammond’s main announcement was an additional £300m “to future-proof the railway network in the north” and ensure HS2 infrastructure can link up with future rail projects. The pledge will be aimed to counter the fury after plans for rail electrification in the Lake District and the Midlands were scrapped in July along with the…