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Westminster Column - 29 September 2010

This week Ed Miliband was elected leader of the Labour Party. Firstly let me convey my congratulations to him.

Of course a good Opposition is not one that opposes everything the Government does, rather a good Opposition is one that works constructively with Government - whilst making clear on which areas it disagrees. What is significant about his victory is that he wasn’t the choice of his MPs, wasn’t the choice of Labour Party members but was put in to power by union votes. This does not bode well and in many ways looks like a great leap backwards for the Labour party and I hope that Mr Miliband doesn't find himself beholden to the unions in the coming months.

The biggest challenge our country faces is dealing with the record debts left to us after more than a decade of Labour's irresponsibility. The cuts the Government are being forced to make are Labour's legacy. They doubled the national debt and left us with the biggest deficit in the G20. We have to clean up Labour's mess to get the economy moving. But for the past five months all we've heard from Labour is knee-jerk opposition, so now's the time for Mr Miliband to speak up and tell us how he'd cut the deficit. He promised us a Labour spending plan before the spending review, now we'd all like to see it.

Mr Miliband told us in his speech this week that he will show humility. He told us that he understands how angry we are that Labour said they had abolished boom and bust. But first he needs to realise that it was not the statement which annoyed us but rather the fact that Labour presided over a huge boom and bust and indeed helped engineer it. They wish to blame the global economy and the US credit crunch, but the UK credit crunch was made in Britain by British Regulators and by the Bank of England under the supervision of Labour Chancellors. Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, HBOS and Alliance and Leicester were UK banks supervised by Mr Brown’s very own design of banking regulator.

The new Labour leader has a clear choice: he can either serve the national interest by joining us in setting out how he would cut the deficit, or he can stand on the sidelines and refuse to engage with the biggest challenge facing Britain in decades.

Elsewhere, this weekend sees the start of the Conservative Party Conference which is this year being held in Birmingham. The party will hold its autumn event at The ICC from 3 – 6 October, welcoming an estimated 14,000 delegates. Hosting the conference provides a fantastic opportunity to promote the city as a great business and leisure destination. When the conference was last held in Birmingham two years ago it contributed an estimated £28 million in economic and media impact. I have no doubt that the city and local economy will benefit even more in 2010.

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