Katy Balls

Ministers told to ‘think carefully’ about Tory conference

Ministers told to 'think carefully' about Tory conference
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With no majority and disagreement rife about what went wrong for the Conservatives in the snap election, next month's party conference presents Tories with the perfect opportunity to discuss new ideas and ponder the big challenges facing the party.

However, don't expect members of government to partake in the soul-searching. Coffee House understands that everyone from ministers down to Parliamentary Private Secretaries have been encouraged to keep their heads down and 'think carefully' about their behaviour at the four-day event. 'It's been put in no uncertain terms, that in the time of a hung Parliament, the media will be looking for stories to fill the vacuum so think carefully about what you do,' explains one member of government keeping a low profile.

With Theresa May hoping to use her leader's speech in Manchester to re-assert her authority on a divided party, Tory high command are concerned that a few ill-thought remarks from ambitious ministers could mean the conference descends into a leadership parade. There is concern that hacks will begin to focus on what a junior minister has said about winning back votes – rather than what the Prime Minister says on the podium.

While ministers may be destined to have a dull conference (or reconsider their career path), the same can't be said for backbenchers. Boris Johnson is scheduled for just one event but Jacob Rees-Mogg has a packed diary, as does Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson. As both have been tipped for the leadership, May runs a risk that ambitious members of government – such as Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab – could begin to feel a bit left out if they perceive their rivals to be racing ahead when they're stuck in the stables. Given that the warm prosecco (or ice-cold Pol Roger at the Spectator bash) will be in supply once again, there's a very real chance that the instructions could be discarded just a few hours in.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor. She is also a columnist for the i paper.

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