As it happened: Wednesday at conference

Key points

  • The final day of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester
  • David Cameron redrafts part of his big speech to clarify a remark which appeared to call on households to pay off their credit card bills
  • The prime minister tells activists his deficit reduction plan will turn the UK's fortunes around, "but only if we stick to it"
  • Foreign Secretary William Hague says the government's approach to the EU is "in tune with the instincts of the British people"
  • Defence Secretary Liam Fox says Nato must remain the main defender of European countries in his speech

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    Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the final day of the Conservative Party conference. Today's events are dominated by David Cameron's speech - due to start about 1430 BST. We expect the prime minister to focus on the economy and seek to reassure people that although this is a very worrying period for families and businesses, better times do lie ahead.


    The tone of Mr Cameron's address will be very interesting. Among other things, he is expected to urge households to pay off their credit and store card bills as one way to help clear the nation's debt and rebalance the economy. The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says the PM is walking a tightrope by using such language. Read more of his thoughts on the big speech.

    Economics editor for the BBC, Stephanie Flanders,

    tweets: If the PM really wants us all to repay our debts he shd have a word with Mervyn King. It is central to the Bank's policies that we do not.


    If further evidence of the fragility of the economy was needed, official figures just released show UK growth between April and June has been downgraded from 0.2% to 0.1%.

    Elizabeth Halbert, West Yorkshire,

    emails: I'm a holistic therapist and tutor with good skills. As a self employed person there is no guarantee of work or holiday and sick pay. I have spent the last few years treading water as the cost of living has just gone up and up. When Cameron says pay off your debts I'm thinking well how, when I'm living hand to mouth barely able to cover the extortionate cost of heating, lighting and fuel.


    William Hague and Liam Fox have been cast in the role of warm-up acts for the prime minister, but their speeches this morning will be highly significant in their own right. Mr Hague will address foreign policy challenges, ranging from the economic crisis in Europe to the mission in Afghanistan, while Mr Fox is expected to talk about the future of the armed forces at a time of budget cuts and job losses.


    Ahead of his appearance before Tory activists, Mr Hague has been doing the interview rounds. This morning's address will actually be his second speech to conference - a rare honour indeed.

    David Cameron

    First up, we'll be kicking off with a speech by party chairman Baroness Warsi, followed by a session on policy development chaired by Oliver Letwin - who wrote the 2010 election manifesto. Dare I say that may be one for the wonks?


    The hall isn't exactly full right now, but expect numbers to build significantly for William Hague and Liam Fox - both conference favourites.


    David Cameron is already on the stage - but, don't worry, it is only a video message. He says his speech later will stress the need for "strong leadership" in difficult times and the party's "unwavering" commitment to tackle the deficit to offer a brighter future to the next generation.

    Jim Bentley, North Wales,

    reacting to the news that David Cameron is expected to tell UK households to pay off their credit and store card debts in his keynote speech, emails: I used to work for a credit card company, they preferred it if you didn't pay your debts in full. In fact those who paid off their cards monthly were seen as the worst kind of customer. Working there for two years gave me a valuable education in personal finance.


    Party chairman Baroness Warsi starts by attacking Labour for "navel-gazing" at their conference. Interestingly, she goes on to say Conservative activists have felt "frustrated" by a lack of opportunity to debate policy at previous conferences. Party members have felt "shut out" in the past, but now the powers-that-be have "listened".


    When David met Hugh... Away from the conference hall, the PM had a bit of a chat with actor Hugh Grant about phone hacking. Grant has now had words with all three main party leaders on the subject.

    David Cameron and Hugh Grant

    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: Unlikely booze brothers? At a fringe meeting organised by the Social Market Foundation, Tory Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin was in sparkling, bubbling, frothy form. Appearing alongside TUC boss Brendan Barber, he revealed the pair had shared a "bibulous return journey" to London from the recent Lib Dem conference. Are the days of beer and sandwiches in Downing Street about to make a comeback?


    Baroness Warsi urges activists to "go out and kill the myths" about what the government is doing to help the Conservatives win an outright majority in 2015. She also calls on the party to "broaden its appeal".

    Dave, from Newcastle,

    reacting to the news that David Cameron is expected to tell UK households to pay off their credit and store card debts in his keynote speech, emails: It's easy for him to say pay off your debts, He and others like him get paid a livable wage. I have had a pay freeze going on five years now and still no increase for another 3! My gas and electricity have more than doubled in price, landlords increasing their rents and no hope of getting on the property ladder or even saving a fraction of the deposit the banks insist on now.


    Baroness Warsi promises local Conservative Party associations "big-name, interesting" speakers in the future. How many constituencies can David Cameron visit before 2015, I wonder?


    Baroness Warsi has now finished and the hall is hearing from Jeremy Middleton, the chairman of the National Convention of Conservative Associations. He says new people are joining the Conservatives all the time but doesn't give any figures about party membership - which reports have suggested is under pressure.


    Looks like Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin's already got his bags packed ready to go. He's due on stage shortly.

    Oliver Letwin
    Media adviser Edward Staite

    tweets: Pre-briefing of PM's speech seems rather messy this morning. Expect the Chancellor to get involved soon


    Activists are now watching a video applauding the volunteers who spend hours canvassing and knocking on doors on behalf of the party. It gets a good clap of its own - you suspect they are preaching to the converted on that one!


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander joked at a fringe meeting that he was serving in a Tory-dominated cabinet as part of a "hostage-exchange programme". TUC chief Brendan Barber - not a fan of spending cuts - jibed that he appeared to have developed "Stockholm Syndrome".


    Party official Fiona Hodgson tells the hall that 200 local party branches have contributed to a working group which is considering Tory policy after 2015. Ministers have been impressed by what they've heard, apparently.


    Mr Letwin now comes to the stage. He also praises the work of the voluntary party and says it can make a big difference helping policymakers develop ideas on long-term issues like productivity, an ageing population and rural-urban development.


    Workers from BAE Systems - the British defence giant planning to axe 3,000 jobs in the UK - have arrived at the conference. They've cycled 110 miles to be there, from the factory in Brough, to plead with Liam Fox to help prevent the cuts.

    BAE workers arrive at Tory conference

    Mr Letwin and his panel - including MP Amber Rudd - are now taking questions from the floor. The first is from a young activist about how to increase opportunity and aspiration among young people. Ms Rudd, a former successful businesswoman, says "it is never too early" to become an entrepreneur.


    Another member of the panel is Ross Warburton, from the eponymous breadmaking firm. Oliver Letwin jokes that Mr Warburton has written a book entitled "born and bread".


    Ahead of his big speech, the BBC's Daily Politics has taken a look back at the highs and lows of the past 12 months for David Cameron - in the style of a comic book. You can watch it by clicking here.


    Mr Letwin now introduces Tim Campbell, the first winner of the BBC series The Apprentice, who - no surprise here - is there to talk about the importance of apprenticeships. He says there is a "stigma" around hiring apprentices and they should be seen not just as a "social good" but as a way of boosting companies' bottom line.


    Bit more on the latest Westminster-Hollywood hook-up. Speaking at a meeting, Hugh Grant revealed that the PM had promised to go along with the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking as long as they were not "barking". The actor, who himself played the PM in the whimsical comedy Love Actually, added: "Nice man, but we'll see."


    A little confusion back in the hall as the three members of the panel shuffle off stage and are replaced by another trio. They are now talking about the challenges of an ageing population to the NHS. A GP makes what Mr Letwin says is a "jolly good speech" about giving clinicians more say over how services are offered.


    Politicians would kill for this kind of reception from their party members. This was the delighted audience at that Hugh Grant meeting we mentioned.

    Tory activists taking pictures of Hugh Grant

    Here's a blast from the past. Oliver Letwin introduces Diana Moran, known to the country during the 1980s as the Green Goddess excercise guru. Mr Letwin describes her as a "health icon" and when Mrs Moran - who has beaten breast cancer in the past - tells the audience she is 72, he replies "you see what I mean".

    Matthew Slyman, in Huddersfield,

    emails: David Cameron is right. Spending money we HAVE on things that actually improve our lives does boost the economy. But spending borrowed money, only to pay interest to companies whose morality and usefulness is questionable (and whose earnings only serve to pay exorbitant dividends to their already wealthy directors and shareholders, who work little harder or smarter than the rest of us); does not.

    BBC's Tim Reid

    tweets: A few keen Tories queueing up..3 hours early.. for Cameron's speech to #cpc11


    Tom Wright, the chief executive of Age UK, tells the panel the "language around ageing" needs to be changed to reflect the "massive contribution" that elderly people make to society. And he has good news for activists by suggesting that since Sunday - when the conference began - peoples' average life expectancy has increased by one day. That's something to cheer them up.

    Sky's Joey Jones

    tweets: Wonder if credit card passage will change before delivery? Criticism is it's too gloomy, too proscriptive and economically flaky too.


    An interesting exchange. Mr Letwin and his panel are accused of "ducking a question" about what they're doing to reduce the burden on schools and other organisations of criminal record checks. The minister replies that a review is considering the issue, but says fewer people need to be covered and procedures need to be "much simpler". "We are on your side, believe me," he stresses.


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: There was pugilistic posturing in the unlikely setting of an event organised by the Observer newspaper last night. Charlotte Leslie, who became an MP last year, revealed she was a boxer, having taken up the sport at the age of 11. It transpired she had trained in the same gym as Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno. "I'm a southpaw, so watch out for my left," she warned nervous-looking host Andrew Rawnsley.


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: After Charlotte Leslie's revelation of her love of boxing, there was some discussion of fellow new MP Dominic Raab's karate prowess. The proud holder of a black belt somewhat dented his credentials when he told a fringe meeting he'd had to wind down his chopping and kicking since having a hip replacement.


    The hall is now considering the future of the UK's cities. Shaun Bailey, an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate at the last election, urges local authorities to stop building "sink estates" and give more thought to how older people are housed, saying many are being forced to live in criminal conditions.


    Oliver Letwin, in full flow...

    Oliver Letwin
    Presenter of BBC1's This Week Andrew Neil

    tweets: Genuinely puzzled: Cameron urges credit card debt cut yet own growth forecasts assume \u00a3600bn rise in consumer debt by 2015 #cpc11 #bbcdp


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds, feted as one of the "bright young things" of the 2010 intake, recalled his youth, saying: "For a long time, I thought politics was a very boring thing, where people talk to themselves." The other MPs on the Observer's discussion panel listened intently.


    The loudest applause of the morning so far for a suggestion that the planning system is a "bloody nightmare". Architect and TV presenter George Clarke delights the audience by urging a bonfire of red tape and bureaucracy. The country is "skint" he suggests, and people need to be "incredibly creative" if the new homes that are needed are to be built.


    Mr Letwin's segment is over and Baroness Warsi is back on the stage. She tries to make light of yesterday's spat between Ken Clarke and Theresa May over human rights and that now famous cat. She suggests the Tories were "within a whisker" of a controversy but she hopes delegates will return home "feline good". Wonder whether David Cameron will refer to the incident in his speech.


    A short interlude while the Conservative chair praises all those involved in the hosting of the conference. William Hague and Liam Fox will be on stage shortly.


    An interesting aside as the foreign policy session begins. Fiona Hodgson reveals that she was forced to hide in a cupboard for six hours, when during a visit to Kabul, her hotel came under attack. The experience was "extremely frightening". She pays tribute to British troops, special forces and diplomatic staff.


    Defence Secretary Liam Fox is now on the stage. He begins by contrasting the "mindless" behaviour of this summer's rioters with the heroism of British armed forces in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. He says it is the latter "who truly represent Britain at its best".


    Mr Fox pays tribute to fallen servicemen and women, saying they "will never be forgotten".


    Efforts to get on top of the "black hole" in the defence budget will be difficult, Mr Fox says. But he insists "you cannot be strong if you are broke".


    Away from the conference hall, David Cameron has been visiting Manchester's Museum of Science. Here he is with Leah Wong, 20, a third year physics student at the University of Manchester, and Neill Ricketts, chief executive of Versatile Minerals

    David Cameron visits Manchester's Museum of Science
    ITV News Senior Political Correspondent Chris Ship

    tweets: Just caught Liam Fox to ask him about frequent visits of his bestman to MoD: He's just a friend. I'll be happy to explain later today #cpc11


    Even with budget cuts, Mr Fox says the UK will still have the fourth largest defence budget in the world. He says the \u00a31bn outlay on new Chinook helicopters is evidence of the government's commitment to equipping the armed forces for the future, and he pledges to double reservist numbers, saying the Territorial Army must never be allowed "to get in such a sorry state again".


    A popular pledge from Mr Fox to retain the Trident nuclear deterrent. "You cannot take a chance on the security of future generations," he insists - to applause.


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: They say party conferences these days are too stage-managed. Maybe so, but the Tory members in the main hall at Manchester Central are more concerned with matters on the ground. For several days stewards have been shepherding them towards the front and middle of the auditorium to ensure they look as numerous as possible on TV. The mood is definitely darkening. One late-middle-aged gentleman, asked to vacate his seat, chided security staff: "I'm here for five minutes. Don't make a fuss. I don't want to move." After no ground was given on the issue, he rose to his feet and left the auditorium, his hessian bag slung moodily over his shoulder. Or was it jute?


    Hall of two halves. Tory members are being ushered to the front - and not all of them are happy.

    Conference auditorium

    Over the past year, the UK has signed 27 defence agreements with other countries with eight others in the pipeline, says Mr Fox. However, he insists that the UK-US alliance is still our "number one" relationship and "the cornerstone" of our security.


    Moving onto Afghanistan, Mr Fox says levels of violence in Helmand province are down a third on the same time last year. But he says the Taliban are desperate and attacks of the kind seen in Kabul in recent weeks will continue. He stresses that such progress is "not irreversible" and a political solution is needed.


    On Libya, Mr Fox says Nato operations will continue until necessary, but insists that Libyans are now in a position to shape their own destiny.

    David Moody, in Staffordshire,

    emails: I totally agree with people paying off their credit cards and then they should cut them up like we did. Now we just use debit cards which means you can only spend what you have in the bank of your own money and not someone elses. The majority of people have to learn that you cannot keep buying stuff if you haven't got your own means to pay for it. There is a very distinct difference between wanting something and needing something.


    Mr Fox insists the Falklands Islands will remain British for as long as their residents want. He pays tribute to Baroness Thatcher for her courage in fighting to protect their independence - interestingly the former prime minister attended Mr Fox's 50th birthday party recently despite her frail health.

    Andy Cooper, in Hull,

    emails: I am trying to pay my credit card off, but the banks are making it tough for everyone. My apr was 15.9% and because I was not spending and paying it off, the bank put my apr up to 19.9%. This is wrong and you get no help from anyone. Now I have just been told I have lost my job at bae systems because of government defence cuts.


    Mr Fox criticises those in Europe who want to "duplicate Nato" by creating an EU defence force. He suggests EU nations need to contribute more to Nato operations, saying they cannot take advantage of the insurance policy it provides "while not paying the premium".

    BBC's Norman Smith

    tweets: Still toxic ? 42% of voters say they would "never" vote Tory - YouGov poll for IPPR.


    Nearing his finale, Mr Fox says liberty and security are "not the natural order of things" and the country must show in its approach to foreign policy that it "stands for something".


    Mr Fox concludes his speech by saying the UK must continue to uphold the values which "makes it great". Generous applause for the defence secretary.

    Presenter of BBC Radio 4's The World At One Martha Kearney

    tweets: As I was hovering to voxpop MPs, a minister said I looked like a goshawk hunting for rabbits. Charming #cpc11

    Channel 4 News's Political Editor Gary Gibbon

    blogs: Lobbying for changes to the PM's big speech


    In the hall, there is now a panel discussion on the military covenant and how local authorities can improve housing and other facilities for retired members of the armed forces. Mr Fox says there is still money available in this year's budget for town halls to spend on the "community covenant".


    An interesting idea. Schools should "adopt" war memorials in the run-up to 2014 - the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One - the defence secretary suggests. It will help "connect" local communities with the military.

    Matthew Horsfall, in Stockport,

    emails: It's very easy for Mr Cameron to shoulder the blame with UK households and telling them to pay off their credit and store card debts. I myself am trying to do that but recently applied for a loan to try and make my debts more manageable and allow myself a little extra cash to spend (which could help the economy?) but was refused although I have never ever missed a payment on any card, loan or any other finance agreement I have ever had!


    Not everyone in the conference hall is glued to the speeches...

    Guide dog at Conservative conference

    In the hall, the defence panel is taking questions from the floor. Rob Gough, a member of the Territorial Army, asks what the future holds for the reservists. Mr Fox says he hopes to double their numbers to more than 30,000, "transforming their reputation and status".


    Here's an open goal for Mr Fox. He is asked to talk about the importance of the "special relationship" to the UK. He says he has made no secret of the fact that he is a "Eurosceptic and proud Atlanticist". The US accounts for more than 40% of global spending on defence, he points out.


    The foreign secretary is due to make his speech soon. His Today programme interview earlier contained some disappointment for Conservative MPs hoping that a potential EU treaty change might provide the opportunity for the UK to get some powers back. Any such change is years off, Mr Hague said. You can listen back to it here.


    Ever thought that conference history is repeating itself? Activists are now watching a video address from the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She also recorded a similar message for Labour last week. She urges politicians around the world "to build a society where the rights of people are assured by democratic institutions".

    New Statesman

    blogs: Why Cameron's patronising demand for families to clear their debts was so thoughtless


    A furious press release has arrived from rock band Primal Scream. They describe themselves as "totally disgusted" that Home Secretary Theresa May ended her speech yesterday with their song Rocks. They say they are "totally opposed to the coalition government", adding: "We would like to distance ourselves from this sick association." The Conservatives later insisted the song had never, in fact, been used.


    Martin Callanan MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, is now speaking. He starts with a bit of Brussels-bashing, saying the European Commission has the wrong answers to deal with the financial crisis. He blames the current situation on the "disastrous decision" to introduce the euro.

    Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy

    tweets: Confused as to whether it's your patriotic duty to run up or pay off the credit card? Will be exploring tonight.


    Mr Callanan has a dig at Chris Huhne, referring to a book that the Lib Dem minister wrote several years setting out the case for joining the euro. If people had listened to such "siren voices", he suggests the UK economy would now be "in ruins".


    Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament are not there to court popularity but to stand up for British national interests. Loud applause for that. Mr Callanan, the Tories' leader in the European Parliament, says his constituents are tired of being "pushed around" and "taken for a ride" by the European Commission and calls for the UK Parliament to reclaim powers over social policy and employment rights.


    Jan Zahradil, chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament - to which the Conservatives belong - is now speaking. The Czech MEP says he has attended more Conservative Party conferences than he can remember and considers himself a "Tory at heart".

    Kate Edwards, in Somerset,

    emails: I will be very interested in what pressure the financial institutions are going to be put under following this speech. Are they still going to be allowed to offer credit in the same manner as they do now?


    Not much support for the European Commission or the history of the European Union here. Mr Zahradil says Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet - the founders of the original European Coal and Steel Community - were "nice guys" but that their vision is now "outdated". Rather than more integration, the EU must become more "open and flexible". Now William Hague is on the stage - cue standing ovation.


    Mr Hague starts by paying tribute to the "persistence" and "dignity" of Aung San Suu Kyi and gets another big round of applause.


    The foreign secretary says the UK should be proud of its intervention in Libya, paying tribute to David Cameron's "steel and humanity". Contrasting Libya with the Iraq invasion, he says the UK did not have to "rely on a dodgy dossier" to win the argument.


    Moving onto Afghanistan, Mr Hague says the UK's mission there is "difficult and dangerous". But he says the the presence of British troops is essential to protect national security.


    Time is running out for the peace process in the Middle East, Mr Hague argues. He urges Israeli and Palestinian negotiatiors to resume their talks, adding that he backs a two-state solution.

    1225: Nick Robinson Political editor

    The prime minister has re-written the part of his conference speech which appeared to call on households to pay off their credit card and store card bills. His aides insist that this was due to "sloppy drafting" and the briefing-out of an unfinished speech. Mr Cameron will now say that: "The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That's why households - all of us - are paying off the credit card and store card bills."


    Mr Hague describes China and Russia's decision to block a UN resolution condemning the violence of the Syrian government as "mistaken and deeply regrettable". He pledges to redouble diplomatic efforts on the regime of President Assad.

    Freerunning in Downing Street

    This video will be will be shown to delegates ahead of Cameron's speech, according to The Telegraph


    A long attack on Labour's failures in foreign policy. Mr Hague says the party "strutted on the world stage" but achieved very little. He says Labour "connived" in the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and the "whole world can now see that was the wrong decision".


    The way the UK conducts foreign policy has changed dramatically, with "sofa government replaced by Cabinet government" - that's a reference to how Tony Blair took decisions over Iraq.

    Edd Shipton, 44, a full-time carer for his child in Essex,

    tweets: Hague is every inch the statesman, I don't agree with what he is saying but the delivery is superb.


    Mr Hague says the government's instincts over Europe are "in the tune" with the people's. He says the European Union has too much power over the UK and he firmly believes, "when the time is right", that this influence should be reduced.


    The UK is "breathing new life into old neglected alliances" like those with Australia and Japan and reinvigorating that "great institution", the Commonwealth, Mr Hague says. That comment is met with much applause.


    Foreign Office ministers have visited 97 countries since the general election, says Mr Hague, while he himself has personally visited 40. This is proof of a much-boosted diplomatic effort, he adds.


    A standing ovation for the foreign secretary, after which the hall empties out for lunch.

    Jordan Millward, 24, unemployed from Stoke-on-Trent,

    tweets: Hague might not be leadership material, but he's an amazing statesman and diplomat - perfect for Foreign Sec.

    1241: Norman Smith Chief political correspondent, BBC News Channel

    When Number 10 woke up to see headlines about paying off credit cards, they probably thought 'Crikey, that's absolutely not the message we want to send.' There was a real danger that those few words could have completed overshadowed the rest of David Cameron's speech - hence the hasty rewrite. Downing Street insist that Mr Cameron does understand the struggles of ordinary people, and advice about paying off debts could have led to suggestions he was out of touch.


    We'll slow down the entries a bit for the next hour or so while we - and the party faithful - take on board some much needed sustenance. It'll be full speed ahead though for David Cameron's big speech from about 2.30pm.

    Presenter of BBC Radio 4's The World At One Martha Kearney

    tweets: Last minute rewrite of David Cameron's speech. Nick Robinson will explain why. I am joined by David Willets live #cpc11

    Chris, from Bedfordshire,

    emails: I completely agree with the PM it is nothing more than good common sense and house keeping. Back in the eighties when I had a young family and I was the only earner, I got a credit card for the first time and like a stupid kid in the sweetshop I soon spent up to the limit, and could not reduce the debt.

    Mark Burton

    emails: Last year we decided to sell our larger 4 bedroom house and buy a smaller property, as there is only the 2 of us and the dogs - a property that is cheaper to run. And in doing so, clear nearly all the mortgage and pay off the credit cards and personal loan. It took nearly 12 months to sell and move from Dorset into the New Forest - but we are now able to to clear the credit cards, loan and practically all the mortgage. We may, in the spring, demolish this property and build a cottage - but at the moment, I like being debt and mortgage free.


    Queues are already forming at the conference for David Cameron's big speech - expected any time from 2.30pm.


    Mr Hague had some strong words for Russia and China in his speech - the two UN Security Council members vetoed a resolution backed by the UK condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests. For more details of that story, click here.


    The eyes have it... Here's Mr Hague delivering his speech earlier:

    William Hague gives his conference speech
    Economist and blogger Duncan Weldon

    tweets: Cameron's new problem - saying 'households ARE paying off their debt', implies the OBR consumption forecast 2011-15 is wrong.

    Labour MP Ed Balls

    tweets: Has David Cameron really now retracted the words he briefed the papers this morning telling people to pay off their credit cards?


    Back to that speech rewrite. Universities and Science Minister David Willets told the BBC that it had been misinterpreted: "There was certainly a recognition, look, that this draft - that was being circulated yesterday - was being taken as personal financial advice when what really the prime minister was trying to do is to describe what's happening in our economy."


    There's a lot of talk today about personal debt, but just how much do we all really owe? Well, according to the Bank of England's latest numbers - from the end of August - the figure was \u00a3209bn. That includes credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts, but not mortgages. Within that, outstanding credit card lending stood at \u00a357bn. Our total debts actually peaked at \u00a3236bn in September 2008 - just before the recession struck.


    David Hughes, leader writer at the Daily Telegraph, thinks that "on the scale of party conference cock-ups", the credit card thing "registers pretty low on the Richter scale". He goes on: "Remember last year's uproar over the scrapping of child benefit for middle class mothers? Now that's what I call a row."


    Jonathan Portes, writing on the Guardian website, says the speech may have been changed but even now "it relies on the same underlying faulty analysis". He goes on: "If all sectors - government, households and firms - all increase saving and reduce spending at once, the inevitable consequence will be a severe reduction in overall demand and hence a return to recession."


    On a similar theme, Jim Pickard - of the Financial Times - thinks there'll be a "mini-inquest" into how the credit card line made it into the speech. He writes: "The clear implication of a prime minister asking the public to stop spending - at a time of a potential double-dip recession - was not lost on anyone today."


    Just to keep you in the loop, David Cameron is due to start speaking at 1430 BST - although these things do tend to slip a bit. We're currently watching like hawks for him and wife Samantha to leave their hotel for the time-honoured - and not at all stage-managed - walk to the conference hall.

    1402: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Stewards in hall ahead of PM's speech tell me not to sit on my own or at the back in case seats don't fill up. Empty chairs have been a problem all week, but surely there won't be spaces for the big speech.

    1406: Nina

    emails: It is all very well criticising Mr Cameron on his handling of our debt crisis, but it is not worse than under Gordon Brown. And Gordon Brown's team did not even make it clear how bad our situation was. When you implement cuts it does take time to reap the rewards.

    1408: Simon White, Peterborough,

    emails: I am personally paying off everything I owe and not now using credit cards at all, I suggest everyone does the same.

    1411: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Strong willed newspaper journalists refusing to be shuffled about to fill spaces in the hall. One particularly caustic sketchwriter is not for moving.


    Michael Fallon, Conservative Party deputy chairman, says there's been some "overinterpretation of some early drafts of the speech". When it's put to him that the original, offending sentence did tell people, quite straightforwardly, to pay off their credit card debts, Mr Fallon disagrees, saying he thinks there was "some ambiguity" about the wording.

    1414: Labour MP Kevin Brennan

    tweets: #cameron Has anyone calculated what would happen to demand and therefore unemployment if everyone did pay off their credit cards at once?


    On different matters, Conservative MP and chairman of the Public Administration Committee Bernard Jenkin tells BBC2's Daily Politics that the Human Rights Act and EU legislation are having a "paralysing" effect. "There's a real problem about making government work in this over-regulated environment," he says.


    Activists, lobbyists and others queue to hear the main man...

    Queue wait to hear David Cameron's speech
    1425: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    PM will signal expansion of National Citizen Service in his speech. I'm told that by 2014 there will be 90,000 places at a cost of \u00a3140m.


    Another shot of people queueing...

    Queue for David Cameron's speech

    Here we go, David and Samantha Cameron have emerged from their hotel. He's wearing a purple tie - classic - she's gone for a bold choice of a red skirt and red and pink striped top.


    Here's a quick grab of the Camerons en route to the conference hall - sorry about the blur, they didn't stop for the cameras...

    David Cameron and his wife Samantha
    1431: BBC journalist Giles Dilnot

    tweets: Cameron's dilemma. You know a line of your speech has become an issue. You know the re-write is known. Do you deliver it deadpan, or say something more?


    We're hearing the speech might be at least 25 minutes late - that's bound to cause some grumbling.


    Speedy work from the fashion detectives. We think Samantha's top is from Whistles - the higher end of the High Street for the uninitiated. It's currently on sale - \u00a375 down from \u00a3110 - but we don't know whether the PM's wife paid full whack.

    1434: Labour's parliamentary candidate for South Swindon Anne Snelgrove

    tweets: Hilarious listening to #R5live @Kevin_Maguire & friends trying to describe SCameron's outfit and failing spectacularly to make any sense


    The blue half - I know it's more than half, but you get the gist - of the cabinet have just entered the conference hall.

    1439: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    The PM's speech event kicked off with the Party Election Broadcast urging aid spending. Audience stands to applaud cabinet members' arrival.


    The PM's warm-up man, Shaun Bailey, is now on the stage - he was an unsuccessful Conservative parliamentary candidate at the last general election. He introduces a couple of young people from a poetry collective who visited No 10 recently. They, in turn, introduce a video.

    1441: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Still plenty of empty spaces in the hall. One MP told me her local supporters just couldn't afford the Manchester hotels.


    Some of the big hitters in the audience watching the warm-up video..

    Ken Clarke, Jeremy Hunt and Oliver Letwin

    Another video - this one is about the National Citizen Service, a David Cameron brainchild. As our correspondent Ross Hawkins said, we're expecting the PM to announce a big expansion of the scheme.


    Here's another (much clearer) shot of the PM and wife Samantha a short while ago on their way to the hall.

    David and Samantha Cameron
    1446: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Autocue is in place for David Cameron's speech. He won't be reprising his trick of delivering a big address from memory.


    Some other families Cabinet faces in the audience, enjoying the pre-speech festivities

    Andrew Lansley and William Hague

    In the hall, Shaun Bailey says the citizenship scheme is "a modern national service that kids want to be part of". "This could be the single most transformative thing that happens to this country ever," he says - a very big claim indeed. He says that for 13 years under Labour children were taught about their rights but not their responsibilities, and the scheme is part of rectifying that.


    A teenager who's taken part in the national citizen service tells the hall that before taking part he was "just a boy who didn't do much for the community", but afterwards he realised he was "a man who could have an impact".

    1453: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Journalists, not disinclined to be grumpy and cynical, getting restless as a lengthy build up to the speech continues.


    Samantha Cameron has taken her seat in the audience - but still no sign of her husband.

    1456: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    We're now onto our third pre speech video.


    Here's Samantha in her seat, ahead of the PM's speech. Not long to go now...

    Samantha Cameron

    The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says this speech is a bit like the State of the Union address for the US President. There's a list of things - and buzz phrases - David Cameron has to mention to prove he cares about them. So expect him to range widely across many policy areas - and to get the Big Society in there at least once.

    1458: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Finally a reaction from the hall as the video shows Cameron mocking Ed Miliband at PMQs. Not sure whether Mr Speaker would approve of heavily edited parliamentary footage being used in a party political film.


    Finally, 28 minutes late, David Cameron arrives on stage.


    The PM begins by saying his government has clear objectives - not least to get the country out of trouble in a way that is free and fair. The camera shows George Osborne nodding sagely.

    1500: Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph Benedict Brogan

    tweets: Even senior members of Team Dave have been used to fill rows, rather than the usual standing on the sidelines #cpc11


    He thanks the party for its performance in May's local elections and for defeating "that excuse for a voting system" - AV - in the referendum. He also gives a plug for Boris Johnson in his bid to win a second term as London mayor.


    Mr Cameron takes the stand...

    David Cameron

    Ah, here's the cat joke we thought might be coming. Talking about books that cabinet members might read, the PM says: "I think after yesterday we should probably have a group reading of Mog the cat."

    1504: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Between the videos and the speech there were two references to the AV vote; in essence celebrating a Lib Dem defeat.


    David Cameron now pays tribute to British troops in Afghanistan and to police officers on the streets of the UK. "We are proud of what you do," he says.

    1505: Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday Jane Merrick

    tweets: Cameron puts a figurative arm around theresa may over #catgate


    The PM champions the UK's commitment to its aid budget, even during tough times. He says everyone in Britain can be proud, pledging again to ringfence such spending. This certainly isn't a universally popular policy.


    "I know we can turn this ship around," David Cameron insists, although he admits there are "no shortcuts to success" when it comes to getting the UK economy out of its current hole.


    He says it is the "spirit of Britain" that will get us out of trouble. "We need to be more like us - the real us - a small country that does great things."

    1509: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    A gag about George Osborne choosing 'The Man Who Would Be King' as a favourite read brings the odd intake of breath. Edgy stuff for a PM to refer to a potential successor.


    Mr Cameron stresses the importance of leadership - his own and the country's. He says the UK can take a lead in the world. "Let us reject the pessimism," he declares.

    1511: Aisha Abubakar, 18, a Law student from London

    tweets: #cpc11 "Let's all work together, let's be proud of our country, proud proud proud." Pretty much sums up Cameron's speech.


    A list of bad news - prices rising, jobs lost, fear about the future - but in response, a promise that "government can help".

    1512: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Cameron cites a free school head and GP consortia staff as ideal leaders. He's trying to emphasise he is offering leadership, without being accused of abandoning localism and decentralisation of power.


    Now the rewritten bit - no jokes about that. The PM says: "The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That's why households are paying down the credit card and store card bills."

    1515: Sal2011

    comments on the BBC story: Cameron seems to have a more school teacher style, passing instructions from a pulpit (never mind about the depth of knowledge involved), rather than inspiring leadership and ideas, the spirit to galvanize the populace.


    A guaranteed crowd pleaser and by far the biggest applause so far when Mr Cameron looks squarely into the camera and declares that as long as he's prime minister, the UK will not join the euro.


    Time to turn the fire on Ed Miliband. With a bit of aggression in his voice and a few bangs on the lectern, the PM says Labour "must never be allowed near the economy again".

    1518: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    David Cameron extends a bit of credit to the Lib Dems, mentioning "Nick Clegg and I", as he says his economic plans will work.

    1519: Edd Shipton

    tweets: "Never let Labour near our economy again". Dave, the economy has stagnated. Do you understand?


    A message from Mr Cameron to the unions, which are angry about public sector pension changes: They have every right to protest but the population is getting older and it is "only fair" to ask public sector workers to work longer and pay more into their pensions.

    1521: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    A pop at the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, the man the PM has described as the most annoying person in modern politics.


    Mr Cameron talks about his plan to build "something new" and better for the UK economy. He looks at ease as he delivers his speech. He makes reference to Formula One, a British engineering success story. Ken Clarke is a F1 fan apparently...

    1523: Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    The PM's message to unions: there's no alternative to government's pension plans. He says strikes would be unfair to the public. Chance of one happening on 30 November may have just increased.


    A reference to changing "rigid" employment legislation - Mr Cameron anticipates the "what about workers' rights?" question. The most important right of all is the one to have a "job in the first place", the PM says, to applause.


    "We're not getting enough back from big business," says Mr Cameron - he wants more firms to offer apprenticeships. In return the government is cutting red tape, he says.

    1527: Channel 4's Alex Thomson

    tweets: Cameron - 'we need action to get credit to small firms.' Yes - so what action?

    1527: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    The prime minister keeps looking directly into the main TV camera as he emphasises his key points, like Nick Clegg did in the election debates.


    Now the controversial planning reforms which have upset the National Trust among others. The PM says he loves the countryside and will not put it at risk, but the UK "must get the balance right". He says there are businesses desperate to expand "who are stuck in the mud of the planning system".


    A quick pause for a gulp of water...

    David Cameron

    "It was Labour who gave us the casino economy and the welfare society," says the PM, accusing the opposition of "self-righteousness". There's another big round of applause when he says it is the Conservatives who will turn things around.

    1530: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Pretty unequivocal message to those opposing planning reforms - take your arguments down to the job centre. That won't have gone down well at the National Trust stand here at the conference.


    Onto a theme which Ed Miliband used too in his conference speech - equal opportunities for every child. But Mr Cameron accuses the political left of "preaching equality but practising oppression".


    The PM sings the praises of free schools - a flagship Tory policy, but a controversial one - and of a return to old-fashioned educational principles, like good spelling and grammar. "It is a long hard road back to rigour but we are on the way," he adds.

    1535: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    With his passages on aid, aspiration and education, David Cameron is trying to say the left has no claim on compassionate politics. It's as much to do with his party's motivation as its policies.


    The PM says voters have been "conned by governments" for decades which got unemployment figures down by putting people "on the sick" instead. He says the coalition will give real help to those who need it - and are willing to take it - to get them back into work.

    1538: Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    Big hurray as the Old Etonian PM says the "apartheid" between state and private schools must end. I don't think making life harder for private schools is what he's got in mind.


    He really is touching on every policy area - it's house prices now. He says he completely disagrees with the idea that we in the UK should just rent more as they do in Europe and pledges "a new Tory housing revolution", which will include bringing back the right to buy your council house.


    "We don't boo our former leaders," the prime minister says - a comment which draws the longest round of applause yet. That's a pointed reference to Labour delegates who last week booed at the mention of Tony Blair's name.


    Onto the riots. Mr Cameron says fixing the problems that led to the disorder will take a lot of work and promises to be "the most family friendly government ever". His government is already aiming to be the greenest ever so that's a lot to do.

    1543: workermum

    comments on the BBC story: As usual Cameron refers to the EU only in market terms. There's much more for Europeans to share in cultural and humanitarian terms than their bolstering of a failing capitalist economy, Mr Cameron. Obsession with the market has brought us to the sorry state we now find ourselves in.


    The PM announces a "new focus" on children in care to increase the number adopted. He also pledges again to recognise marriage in the tax system - something that's been an ongoing headache for the party.


    The camera cuts to Samantha Cameron giving her husband a big round of applause as he throws his weight fully behind the legalisation of gay marriage.


    The view from above.

    David Cameron's speech
    1546: Sky's Joey Jones

    tweets: cameras showed young national citizens' service people utterly stony-faced as cameron lambasted labour. i'd wager not many are tories.

    1547: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    Highlighting his consultation on gay marriage he picks up on a theme from the start of his leadership of the party. When that consultation was announced Downing Street sources were very keen to stress the PM was personally involved in the decision.


    An old favourite - health and safety. "Britannia didn't rule the waves with her armbands on," says the PM to enthusiastic claps. He tells an incredible-sounding tale about the rules around using highlighter pens too - hope that doesn't turn out to be another cat moment.


    A rallying cry. "We've been told we're finished before... but we came back," the PM says. It's the wartime rhetoric we'd been led to expect. And from cats to dogs... "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog."


    With a dramatic flourish - arms spread wide - Mr Cameron draws to a close. 50 minutes end to end.

    1550: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    A speech that has hopped from topic to topic picks up a bit of spirit and pace at the end with a theme that is basically patriotic.

    1551: Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    'A bigger, stronger society'.. A fleeting reference to Mr Cameron's signature concept, unloved by some here. At the Lib Dem conference, it was said many times that they're a brake on Conservative extremism. David Cameron is challenging that. He's telling voters that his is a progressive, compassionate party, irrespective of the coalition.


    As is customary, Mr Cameron brings his wife Samantha up onto the stage and gives her a kiss - big smiles all round. The music playing? You Got The Music In You, by the New Radicals. Naturally the lyrics are appropriate: "If you feel your dreams are dying. Hold tight."


    The BBC's Justin Parkinson reports: They are playing Lovecats by The Cure in the hall now. A tongue-in cheek reference to the May-Clarke row?


    The post-match interviews begin. Unsurprisingly, Tory deputy chairman Michael Fallon thinks Mr Cameron "hit the right note". Danny Finkelstein, of the Times, was impressed too - he says the speech was much more successful than last year's. And Danny Kruger, the PM's former speechwriter, thinks it was "quite remarkable" being both "energetic and determined". Phew, praise indeed!


    BBC political correspondent Paul Rowley has been scrutinising the speech for buzz words. Top of the shops, "leadership", which appeared 19 times. The prime minister's election slogan, "The Big Society", got two mentions. There were 17 mentions of Labour, but none of Miliband.


    William Hague says the prime minister's speech was "realistic but optimistic". The foreign secretary tells BBC2's Daily Politics that the UK economy is "not back in the danger zone" but everyone wants better growth. Asked whether it had been a good week for the party, he jokes that the fact "the biggest argument has been over a cat shows it has been pretty successful conference".


    More reaction from cabinet ministers. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond says David Cameron has shown people "where we are going" if we hold to the current course. "He's lifted their eyes up," he tells the BBC.

    1604: 33rdpara

    comments on the BBC story: Yes DC is right, just look at what's happening in the rest of the world. Italy, Spain, Ireland, let's fight our way back to prosperity, then we can return to a stable economy. Others have tried Labour's way, and are paying the price.

    1604: The Daily Telegraph's James Kirkup

    tweets: Sources: PM has "bad throat infection", hence flat delivery. But definitely not making excuses. Definitely not. Oh no. Not us.


    Mr Cameron finished with a flourish - arms wide open.

    David Cameron
    1607: politicshomeuk

    tweets: Follow PoliticsHome's live reaction blog as the good and the great give their thoughts on David Cameron's speech.


    Shaun Bailey, the youth worker and unsuccessful Tory parliamentary candidate who introduced the PM, tells the BBC Mr Cameron is one of the few political leaders prepared to talk about - and to - the black community. Asked whether he thinks the Tories have really changed under Mr Cameron, he adds: "I wouldn't be involved if they hadn't."


    Ken Clarke isn't one to take a joke personally. The PM took a bit of a dig at his justice secretary during the speech, saying he'd ordered him to read Crime And Punishment - twice. But Mr Clarke says he doesn't mind, adding: "I would be rather annoyed if he had forgotten me, but then I'm not easy to forget in government."


    Once the speaking is over, the pressing of flesh begins...

    David Cameron shakes hands with activists after his speech

    More love from the Tory top brass. Chancellor George Osborne says it was "a great speech, absolutely what the country needs at the moment". Home Secretary Theresa May's superlative of choice? "Brilliant."

    1615: SJH, from Surrey,

    emails: I completely agree with Mr Cameron. We are responsible for our own debt, and over the last three years i've succeeded in paying off a third of what i've racked up in the previous 10 years before that.


    There's no balcony, but here's the kiss.

    David and Samantha Cameron kiss
    1618: Matt J, from Hertfordshire,

    emails: Have to laugh that it was the Tories under Thatcher and Major who were the most ardent proponents of credit card Britain in the 1980s & 1990s. They ushered in the "borrow now and pay off later" attitude.


    The charity Family Action isn't won over by the speech or the commitment to being "the most family-friendly government ever". Chief executive Helen Dent says Mr Cameron is currently "failing the family friendly test". "If he is serious about supporting families he should ditch the benefit cap and improve services and benefit levels to the most vulnerable families," she says.


    Here's some business reaction to the speech. The British Chambers of Commerce says it is reassured about the PM's commitments on fiscal stability, planning reform and getting credit to small companies. But it says ministers must do more to bang the drum for business and "lay out the route to recovery".


    Daily Telegraph Whitehall editor Christopher Hope quotes one cabinet member who says David Cameron has been suffering with a bad sore throat. Talking at the top of his voice for nearly an hour will probably have finished it off.


    Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards criticises the speech, calling it "a Tory speech to Tory England, with little relevance to Wales, and no answers to the real questions about the economy".

    1629: Jo Brunsden, in Berkshire,

    emails: Well done David Cameron. Spoken with heart and common sense. A great speech. I agreed with everything you said. Can do Britain will be back.


    If you want to read David Cameron's speech in full, you can do so here.


    With that, we're going to bring our live coverage to an end for today - and for the conference season as a whole. Thanks for all your contributions. It'll be back to business as usual next week with Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday - we hope you'll join us then.


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