Conservatives set out vision for the future, but is it enough?

George Osborne In Thought

Day two of the Conservative Party Conference is filled with promises from George Osbourne and a Tory vision for the future.

The second day of the Conservative Party Conference (CPC) has begun. As Conservative party members listen to speeches throughout the day, three things will be at the back of their collective mind:

Firstly, the latest YouGov poll has the party trailing five points, with Labour leading 36%-31%. The poll also gives UKIP 15%, almost half of the Conservative total. According to the poll, 19% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 are planning to vote UKIP, showing their advance.

Secondly, speculations about next week's by-election, with Douglas Carswell standing for UKIP, as well as Mark Reckless' defection, will also be on the back of their minds.

And finally, a question: will the conference, despite hiccups, help turn their fortunes around?

George Osbourne's speech, in the middle of the day, set out a number of key pledges.

He promised that the Conservatives would end youth unemployment in the long term, blaming a "culture of welfare dependency" for the problem. He said that the "tradgedy" could be "ended in the next parliament".

Mr. Osbourne set out three ways this could be achieved: "reform the housing benefit", "replace JSA" and most notably reduce the benefit cap down to £23,000 a year. Average wages in the UK are around £26,000 a year, showing that the thinking behind the move is to encourage young people to work rather than claim benefits.

He then claimed that the savings would then be used to pay for a total of three million new apprenticeships.

The chancellor also claimed that future Conservative governments would "balance the books" and "run a surplus", whilst attacking Labour, saying that under current plans, Ed Miliband's party would spend "£28bn more each year".

Whether or not these pledges from George Osbourne, and others at the CPC, will turn around the party's fortunes is yet to be seen. The party has had a bad few weeks, and with the upcoming by-election in Clacton, the situation might get even worse if there is a UKIP win.

But what the Conservatives are trying to do at the conference is not appear to be too worried about the UKIP situation. They are, in effect, masking their pain.

Osbourne's promises to balance the books and cut further spending, whilst comparing the plans to Labour's plans of (according to the chancellor) spending even more, give a clear sign to the thinking behind the conference. The Conservatives are repeating the message that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Miliband. By contrasting the Conservative's spending vision with Labour's, this is an attempt to show UKIP voters that at the end of the day it will be one or the other.

UKIP will likely win next week's by-election, but whether they can sustain that momentum into the 2015 general election will depend on how much of an impact the "Cameron versus Miliband" message will have.

At the end of Osbourne's speech he gave a long list of what the Conservatives say they stand for, something that got a huge round of applause. He said: "choose jobs, choose enterprise, choose security, choose prosperity, choose investment, choose fairness, choose freedom, choose David Cameron, choose the Conservatives, choose the future."

The list could, however, have been summed up in three words as the threat of a by-election loss, and potentially more disaffections, hang over the heads of Conservative party members:

"Don't choose UKIP."