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Tories ‘champion poor’

12 October 2012


In Birmingham: Mr and Mrs Cameron after his speech to the Conservative Party Conference 

In Birmingham: Mr and Mrs Cameron after his speech to the Conservative Party Conference 

THE Prime Minister said on Wednesday that a "compassionate" Conservative Party was leading the way in fighting poverty in the UK.

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Cameron insisted that the reason why the Government wanted "to reform schools, to cut welfare dependency, to reduce government spending, is not because we're the same old Tories who want to help the rich. . . It's because we're the Tories whose ideas help everyone - the poorest the most."

Mr Cameron said that his welfare reforms addressed the "evils" of "unfairness", "injustice", and "bureaucracy". "It's us, the modern compassionate Conservative party, who are the real champions of fighting poverty in Britain today."

On Monday, the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a further £10 billion in welfare cuts.

The chief executive of the Children's Society, Matthew Reed, said that most families receiving welfare support were "working families", who would "lose out . . . if the Government is to fund cuts to the welfare bill of this magnitude".

Mr Cameron also replied to critics of his education reforms ( Features, 21 September): "I want more free schools, more academies, more rigorous exams in every school, more expected of every child. . . I'm not here to defend privilege. I'm here to spread it."

Some were "sceptical about our aid budget", he said: "But picture the scene - you're in a health centre in Kinshasa. See the child with a needle in her arm, being injected with a Yellow Fever vaccine . . . the difference between living and dying. . . . How can anyone tell me that's a waste of money?"

Christian Aid said that it was "very encouraged" after the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, reiterated on Tuesday the Government's commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid.

On Sunday, outside the Birmingham Christian Centre, where the Conference service took place, members of Christianity Uncut, a network of anti-capitalist Christians, gave out leaflets that said: "Jesus sided with the poor. Tories side with the super-rich."

Question of the Week: Do you agree that the Conservative Party champions the poor?

THE Prime Minister avoided any mention of gay marriage in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Wednesday, despite evidence of disquiet in the ranks.

In his Conference speech last year, he had said: "I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative." But a poll of 100 Conservative Party constituency chairmen, published just before the Conference opened on Sunday, suggested that many Conservatives disagreed with Mr Cameron.

The ComRes poll, commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, found that 71 per cent of the respondents thought that proposals to introduce gay marriage should be dropped, and 60 per cent believed that the policy had cost votes. The Coalition for Marriage's campaign director, Colin Hart, said that the poll reflected "growing unease among grass-roots Conservatives".

The former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has written to constituency chairmen, saying that he is aware that many have concerns about same-sex marriage, and offering "any assistance" to them.

About 1000 people attended a rally organised by the Coalition for Marriage in Birmingham Town Hall on Monday. The speakers included the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd Lord Carey; the Christian Conservative MP David Burrowes; and the former minister Ann Widdecombe.

Criticising the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who last month briefly called opponents of same-sex marriage "bigots" ( News, 14 September), Lord Carey said: "Remember that, the Jews in Nazi Germany, what started it against them was when they were called names; that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state." He hoped that Mr Cameron would "have the courage to back down".

The rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the speakers at the rally as "intolerant and out of touch. . . If the rally organisers truly do believe in love and mar-riage, they should welcome the fact that gay couples love each other and want to get married."

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: "All political parties move with their societies, move with the attitudes of their time. . . This can be difficult for some institutions: we have a debate going on in the Church of England about this."

Anglican Mainstream hosted a fringe event on Tuesday, at which David Skelton defended his report in favour of same-sex marriage, What's In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage?, published by the think tank Policy Exchange.

Policy Exchange had cancelled its participation, but changed its mind "at half an hour's notice", Anglican Mainstream said.

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