Hello from the 2.12 West Coast service heading to London Euston, after the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester (a phrase which I’m sure you’ll be familiar with by now!) Another eventful week in this great city means one thing – it’s time for the Conference Diary!
But before then, I must again thank all of those who made my two weeks away possible. The Star crew of Joe Citrone, David Stewart, Margaret Peddell, Kit Gilmore, John Brackenridge and of course, Russ Candler and Ben Keith have provided brilliant support.
Thanks also to Yahoo UK’s Nadine Bachelor-Hunt, Laura Potter, Ryan Summerfield and Helen Killoran for making so many of the video takes we saw possible, especially at inconvenient times of the day!
And a huge thanks to Adam Boulton for stopping by to review the speech, and Andrew Woodman for his contact help!
🇬🇧 | CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE
— Star Sports Bookmakers (@StarSports_Bet) October 6, 2021
The closing LGBT+ Conservative Party on Tuesday, which was brilliantly run by Elena Bunbury
Nick Robinson’s showpiece interview with Boris Johnson on the Today programme: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09xrtss
The superb WASPI protesters on Tuesday, and many of the other good causes
The lone voices who campaigned against the Universal Credit cut on the fringes
The* UK in a Changing Europe fringe,* where Professor Anand Menon interviewed Liz Truss
Bright Blue’s fringe: Fairer Foundations? Reforming the UK’s property taxes
Meeting Anya Martin, one of the finest minds the country has on housing
Throwing shapes with the Australian High Commissioner
A continued obsession with and misuse of the term ‘woke’, continually coming from grown men, despite the fact that even some Conservative Party members are in disagreement with the incredibly mind numbing strategy
The savage £20 a week cut to Universal Credit
Being mistaken for Kwasi Kwarteng on a dancefloor at an official event
A late-check in at the Britannia Hotel leading to two room changes during the week
Next General Election:
To Take Place in 2023: 15/8 (from 7/4)
To Take Place In 2024: 4/5 (from 5/6)
Overall Majority: Conservatives: 6/5 (from Evens)
Labour: 5/1 (from 6/1)
Most Seats: Conservatives 1/2 (from 4/9)
Labour 7/4 (from 15/8)
The #BrainWorms List
The takeaways from Conference will be listed below, but before then, we must reflect on a week of extraordinary takes. Ladies and gentlemen, the Tory Party Conference #BrainWormsList!
No Policies, Just Vibes
Boris Johnson is vibing. The Prime Minister, surrounded by crises enough to rock any government both in the near and far term, has conducted himself with the air of a man completely unburdened by negative thought or worry.
The leader of a Government that has been in power for 11 years, he conveys the energy and optimism of an opposition leader destined for victory at the date of the next poll, all of this boosted by strong press support and a structural core of voters that has nowhere else to place their votes or support at any given election.
His speech, a combined after dinner special and wedding address that could have been delivered at The Apollo, was a reflection of a man and a party that is playing politics on easy mode (™ Matt Zarb-Cousin) despite the many problems of Government.
Perhaps Paul Goodman of Conservative Home summed it up best:
“The Conservatives are on their fourth term in government, but neither David Cameron nor Theresa May won a solid Tory majority. That Johnson did so two years ago made the Manchester Conference feel like that of a governing party for the first time since 2010.”
Boundless optimism appears to be working so far – can the Prime Minister’s vibing surivie the winter?
Always Twirling, Twirling Towards… Levelling Up
What does level up mean? That’s been one of the key questions this week in Manchester, and the answer is.. complicated. Depending on who you speak to – from the Prime Minister himself to any random person walking through Manchester – Levelling Up has a different answer each time. For example, here’s the Prime Minister:
‘Levelling means fighting crime, rolling up county-lines, putting more police on the street, giving police the powers they need to fight the dealers in death and misery.”
Neil O’Brien and Michael Gove: (1) “empower local leaders and communities”; (2) “raise living standards, especially where they are lower” by “growing the private sector”; (3) “spread opportunity” and “improve public services, especially where they are weaker”; (4) “give people the resources necessary to enhance the pride they feel in the place they live”.
Tory delegates spoke about bringing extra facilities to their communities, especially in places further north than Manchester, whilst O’Brien has written a detailed piece for the Guardian which expands on such themes (to be found here – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/06/levelling-up-restoring-local-pride ) but it is clear that people around the country, Tory members and not, are all expecting very different things from ‘Levelling Up.’
In a way it is classically Johnsonian that the Government’s signature policy aim is all things to all people, headed by the Prime Minister who wants to be all things to all voters. But promising these improvements are one thing, and delivering entirely another – a penny for the thoughts of the Cabinet Minister who told Andrew Woodcock of the Independent that ‘Levelling up’ will take a decade and there will be pain along the way.”
In Liz They Truss
Boris Johnson looks set to be Prime Minister for a long time yet – and indeed the 1/2 on him leading the Conservatives into the next election may look big after this week – but the preparations for his successor have always begun.
Rishi Sunak’s slick speech – with no comment on his policy – was delivered in the style we’d expect, but the person who’s caught the hearts of the party faithful? One Liz Truss. There’s no doubt that the former International Trade Secretary will find the Foreign Office to be a much tougher brief, but if she can avoid the horrendous ricks that Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab made before her, then even higher office could await.
Red Wall Worries
With a nine-point lead over Labour (YouGov) despite a fuel crisis which did take hold of the country (and appears to be receding now) you’d think that all MP’s would be very happy campers indeed.
But that’s not been the case for Red Wall MP’s, many of whom had worries about their positions before YouGov’s MRP polling showed that the Tories would lose up to 32 so-called “red wall” seats to Labour if an election were held tomorrow (poll published 3 days ago).
Despite a strong lead overall, the Tories have dropped seven points down on the 2019 result and with four red wall Conservative constituencies back in Labour territory while another 14 would go onto the likely list and 14 more would be too close to call.
YouGov’s research manager Patrick English – who has also identified Conservative weak spots in the South of England that may be vulnerable to the Lib Dems – is well worth following on this issue going forward, and the views of the 2019 intake are well worth keeping.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.