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Kelly Holmes going for gold at Tory conference

Kelly HolmesBlogging around the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. The appearance of Olympic double gold-medallist Dame Kelly Holmes could see David Cameron over the finishing line

By Lester Holloway

Wednesday 11am

Olympic double gold-medalist Kelly Holmes was spotted dashing into Conservative Party conference this morning. Not being able to run as fast as Ms Holmes, OBV Blog wasn’t able to ask her whether she is a supporter of David Cameron, but that’s definately a question we’ll be putting to her shortly.

Following what looked like the endorsement of TV’s Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, the Tories are certainly starting to build a reputation for attracting the presence of recognisable black celebrities, to add to the progress the party has been making in selecting Black candidates for winnable seats.

Of course, Dame Kelly is a sports ambassador who needs to work with whatever government is in power, and the polls suggest the next government will be of the blue persuasion. However her presence at conference also underlines the fact that, when it comes to attracting celebrities, for Labour the days of Cool Britannia must now seem far away. While for the Tories, those days are only just beginning.

Wednesday 10am

From pig-shed to parliament – one candidate’s remarkable story

George Lee

George Lee

I caught up with a fascinating Conservative candidate for Holborn and St Pancras, George Lee. He was born in a pig shed in Hong Kong, and worked in a toy factory at the tender age of five. Arriving in Britain aged ten, he then proceded to work in his parents’ Chinese takeaway.

Given his childhood, it is all the more impressive that Lee has carved out a highly successful business career that has seen him become a director of the global multinational firm Vodaphone, and former vice-president of T-Mobile. And if that wasn’t enough, he worked as a policeman for 17 years, and helped start the Black Police Association.

He said David Cameron’s social justice agenda had appealled to him “a great deal”, adding: ‘It’s about having a ladder, and encouraging people to climb that ladder, but also having a safety net for those who perhaps can’t climb as fast, and people who have bad luck through their life. You need that social safety net.’

Lee has a small mountain to climb if he is to unseat the sitting Labour MP, former health secretary Frank Dobson. As we speak, there’s a slightly strange moment as Dobson’s wife walks past… apparently she’s in Manchester as one of the very many lobbyists in town.

When I ask Lee if he really thinks he can win it, his eyes say “yes” as well as his lips. He clearly possesses great quantities of drive and optimism to rise from a humble immigrant background to a major City hotshot. And who’s to say those qualities won’t now carry him into parliament?

Tuesday 11am

Are Tories heading for a landslide?

James Cleverly

James Cleverly

Conservative leader David Cameron has been doing his best to create a sober mood, here at his party’s annual conference in Manchester. Wary of appearing prematurely triumphant, and making the same mistake that ex-Labour leader did in 1992 at the infamous Sheffield rally, the message from Tory high command is not taking victory at the general election for granted.

However the mood on the floor of the conference is a lot more positive than that. I caught up with London Assembly member James Cleverly (pictured above) this morning, who said that he and others were detecting a massive shifting of the public mood away from Labour.

He said: ‘There’s a lot of positivity about the Conservatives, but probably more negativity on the doorstep about Labour. I think Labour’s biggest challenge will be getting their core voters out. If they fail to do that, it could be truly disastrous [for them].’

Ex-army major Cleverly, who is regarded as one of the party’s rising stars, said his party still have some work to do to convince Black communities that the party has truly changed for the good, but he was optimistic that when the public witness the election of a new wave of diverse MPs, then attitudes towards the Conservatives would follow.

He said: ‘When those people hit parliament, and when they’re seen regularly, I think then people will realise that we’ve taken a big leap forward.’

You know what, I think he’s right!

Monday 5pm

Is Tim Campbell a Tory?

Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell

In what looks like the Tories biggest coup yet in their bid to woo black and Asian voters, the winner of TV’s Apprentice show, Tim Campbell, appeared to back David Cameron.

Appearing in a Conservative Party video on the theme of ‘Get Britain Working’, businessman and role model Tim Campbell backed a Tory plan to tackle unemployment, saying: “it’s time to do things differently.”

If Campbell has joined the Tories, it could prove a major selling point for Cameron, especially as Campbell has previously backed government projects, including the REACH role modelling initiative.

Earlier in the day, Cameron gave a short speech – clearly holding back his fire and passion for his main speech on Thursday. As delegates filed out of the auditorium, the sounds of the Jackson 5 singing “Ready or Not” echoed around the hall. “You can’t hide from my love”, sang the young Michael Jackson. And so it is with the modern Conservative Party…

Monday 2pm

Sens-Asianal!

Image from British Asian Conservatives website

Image from British Asian Conservatives website

Just arrived at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. It’s a younger looking gathering than previous years, with far more black and Asian faces around.

I caught up with Neeraj Arora, head of public relations for the British Asian Conservative Link, a group that has been in existance since 1997.

He insisted that his party did “care about minority communities”, and that he was generally pleased with progress being made, saying “Conservatives are on the right track.”

The Tories already have one Asian MP, the lawyer Shailesh Vara, but look set to add Priti Patel at the next election, a candidate for Witham. Alok Sharma, in Reading West, also stands a chance, as does Adeela Shafi, in Bristol East.

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4 Responses

  1. good on the conservatiove; just add on one BME every four years and yes you do care about minority communities – LOL they’ve got a long way to go

  2. Have you come across Loanna Morrison yet? She is a Black Tory and a friend.

  3. Brilliant to see this guy being positive and ambitious. A young Black man with ambition, ideas and drive. Even more inspirational as if I am not mistaken this guy went to same primarty school as me (a few years my senior). Its brilliant to see that a guy from “the endz” is being pro active an perhaps helping to form the fresher, younger and more inclusive ” The New Conservative party”. its a start!!

  4. Dont kid yourself, Lucy.
    “The New Con Party” – you have got to be joking.
    They take care of their own and nothing more.
    At least Labour has made change for the better – do you think we’d have half the policies we do now, if we were under a Tory government – you gotta be joking.
    64% of the surveyed population are voting against Brown rather than the Labour Party – and 34% are voting Cameron rather than the Tories… It simply comes down to people not liking Brown – which is a shame!

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