Conservative conference

The Tories will pay a price for Boris’s housing strategy

One of the themes of Conservative conference was that the government has dropped plans for a radical reform of the planning system, which was designed to get more houses built in the south east. Both Boris Johnson and the new party chairman Oliver Dowden were keen to stress this point. But, I say in the Times today, this is a mistake. The Tories are the party of the property-owning democracy, and live and die by this The Tories have been spooked by the Chesham and Amersham by-election where the Liberal Democrats ran hard against planning reform and took the seat on a 25 per cent swing from the Tories. Boris Johnson

Boris’s speech was comedy, not policy

Last week, Keir Starmer derided Boris Johnson as a ‘trivial man’ in his Labour conference speech. Today in his own address to his party in Manchester, the Prime Minister decided to lean into that description. He didn’t bother to give a serious speech He didn’t bother to give a serious speech groaning under the weight of meaty policies. There was just one announcement in the whole 45-minute offering: a £3,000 ‘levelling up premium’ to send maths and science teachers to schools in deprived areas. This will have come as a surprise to many of Johnson’s own Cabinet colleagues, who had expected that a policy-light conference would end with a speech


Watch: highlights of Boris Johnson’s conference speech

So that’s it. The end. Tory conference wraps up today with Boris Johnson delivering a policy-light leader’s speech to close the four day Conservative jamboree in Manchester. Surrounded by campaign placards like a traditional electoral rally, Johnson made an hour long speech peppered with talk of ‘building back better.’ And in traditional Boris style, there were, of course, jokes – ones which fortunately landed better than some of the more laboured ones he’s been making at evening receptions. Below are five of the PM’s best moments from his address to the Tory faithful.


Liz Truss: ‘It’s raining men’

It’s the final day of Tory party conference today, with all eyes on Boris Johnson’s speech at midday. But will all the cabinet be there to watch it, bright-eyed and bushy tailed? Judging from last night’s antics, Mr S suspects that the answer may be: no. Truss, wearing a striking green number, stood out a mile in a sea of identikit Tory boy blue suits Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was seen belting out ‘The Time of My Life’ at the legendary inHouse comms karaoke party while many of her fellow ministers attended The Spectator’s own champagne-fuelled shindig. But while Tom Tugendhat and Michael Gove twirled and spun together

Priti Patel strikes a bullish tone

The theme of Priti Patel’s party conference speech this afternoon was very much ‘large and in charge’. She devoted much of her address to talking about the immigration system, as you’d expect, promising stronger crackdowns on people being smuggled across the Channel in boats. Patel focused on the Vote Leave favourite: taking back control Whereas Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have talked about Britain ‘voting for change’ in 2016, Patel focused on the Vote Leave favourite: taking back control. She told the conference hall this was the key theme of her reforms to immigration, saying: ‘My new plan for immigration is already making its way through parliament. At the heart of

WhatsApp collapse throws Tory plots into chaos

The world’s oldest democratic party has had a few problems with technology in recent years. Famously it was the 2018 Tory conference which saw a security breach where the official party app allowed anyone to access the private phone numbers of members of the Cabinet – or in the case of Boris Johnson change his profile picture to that of a pig. Once again, tech issues are plaguing Tory conference, with three of the world’s most popular apps – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – all being offline since 4:30 p.m. today. The last of these is the favoured platform for disloyal backbenchers and scheming hacks to conspire mischievously to make life harder for long-suffering Tory

Isabel Hardman

Gove starts to define ‘levelling up’

What is levelling up? One of the problems with this nebulous term is that anyone in government who has understood what it means has decided to keep this a glorious secret, rather than sharing it with others. Now that there is an entire department for Levelling Up, it’s a bit harder to take this approach. Michael Gove is the new Secretary of State for the policy and spoke last night at a ConservativeHome fringe event at the Conservative party conference. He was keen not just to offer a picture of what levelling up will look like, but also to respond to critics within his own party who think this is

What Liz Truss didn’t say

As the big winner of the reshuffle, Liz Truss’s appointment as Foreign Secretary set the cat among the pigeons. Truss is the first Conservative woman to take on the brief and cuts a rather different figure to her predecessor Dominic Raab who was, by comparison, publicity shy. Since her promotion, there has been a non-stop stream of Twitter and Instagram posts documenting her meetings in New York, Mexico and Westminster. Today in Manchester, Truss gave her first speech to a domestic audience on what she wants to achieve. Truss is the first conservative woman to take on the brief and cuts a rather different figure to her predecessor Dominic Raab The former

James Forsyth

Boris’s tetchy Marr interview showed the risks he is taking

Boris Johnson’s rather testy interview with Andrew Marr this morning revealed the political gamble that he is taking. Johnson is calculating that the electoral benefits of higher wages will cancel out the public irritation with supply chain issues caused by labour shortages. During the interview, he repeatedly stressed that he thought that the UK’s low wage growth and stagnant productivity was, in part, because of the UK’s use of cheap, imported labour and that he wasn’t going to go back to that ‘old failed model’. The government appears to have paid no political price for the petrol crunch When Andrew Marr pushed on how long these supply chain problems would go

The Manchester refugee charity representing the best of British

In October The Spectator will be heading to Manchester for Conservative party conference for the first time in two years, after last year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic. While the return of party conferences is a welcome sign that things are finally getting back to normal, it’s also a reminder of the damage that Covid and its lockdowns caused over the last year and a half. Charities were hit hard by the pandemic facing closures after being unable to fundraise or campaign. That’s why The Spectator has decided this year to donate all the ticket money for our events at conference to a charity based in Greater Manchester: Caritas