|It has been a dramatic four days in Conservative politics, and many will be relieved to be home from the Brummie viper’s nest that was this year’s Party Conference. With the briefings, counter briefings, U-turns, spats, and back stabbings, the situation inside the conference zone was often even more vicious than around the perimeter, where unpleasant heckling from protesters was a constant for those going in and out.|
These are undoubtedly difficult times for the Conservative Party. The disposal of Boris Johnson was a bold move and the transition needed to go very well to set the Party up for a big final two years of the Parliamentary term. Truss’ and Kwarteng’s botched first month has filled the Party with panic, and has led to a lot of uncomfortably public internal division, which littered this year’s conference. Lots of Tory MPs have broken rank, but perhaps the most worrying example was the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Secretary Simon Clarke, publicly criticising the 45p tax U-turn, and accusing colleagues of a coup. The U-turn was Government policy and for Cabinet Members to publicly slate it whilst also going to war with the backbenchers at the same time points to how much of a free-for-all things have become.
But despite all of this, Truss’ speech closed the Conference on a much more positive note than what we have been witnessing in recent days. Due to a combination of train strikes and general despair, most of the MPs who were grumpiest about Truss had already left before she started speaking. And while that could be viewed as a negative, it actually meant the room was full of the hardcore, the faithful, and it made the atmosphere sound united and determined. There were also a couple of Greenpeace activists who got up to heckle during her speech, and this common enemy seemed to unite the room, and get the crowd even more bullishly behind Truss.
But it wasn’t just circumstance that made the atmosphere positive and bouncy. She spoke well and got a lot of cheers for her ideological vision and depiction of the Opposition Parties as the ‘anti-growth coalition.’ On matters of economic principle, a lot of Conservatives agree with Truss, and when she focuses on these big principles of low tax, of deregulation, of trusting people with their own money, she gets the applause from the base.
A well-received speech is nowhere near enough on its own to reverse the Government’s fortunes. The polls suggest the last few weeks have had real, meaningful cut through, not just in the oft-sought-after red wall, but in the country as a whole. However, the biggest hope for the Conservative Party lies in the knowledge that a lot can change in politics. This time last year, the Tories were around *10 points ahead*. This decline is extraordinary and will make painful viewing for conservatives, but it should also give them perspective. If it’s possible to lose 40 points in a year, it is possible to recover it too. Truss has two years now to buckle down, get her Party behind her, and get to work on delivering a turnaround as remarkable as the collapse. Today, despite the difficult few days it followed, she made a start on that mission.