Tory conference

What does Michael Gove want?

Tory conference has long been more stage-managed than other party meetings, but this year the official speeches from ministers have also been condensed into a very strange late afternoon slot lasting just two hours. The rest of the time is free for fringe meetings and plotting. Ministers and their aides have been told they have to keep their addresses to the hall announcement-lite, which makes those two hours feel largely pointless. Kwasi Kwarteng didn’t announce very much at all, even though his two U-turns have dominated the day’s agenda. This morning, the Chancellor dropped the plan to abolish the 45p rate of tax, and this evening it has emerged that

Boris Johnson’s speech was a triumph

If you were listening to the Prime Minister’s keynote address to party conference, you would not for a second have suspected that the country’s petrol stations were empty, its service industries hopelessly short of staff, its pigs being slaughtered on farms for want of abattoir workers and its Christmas turkeys on the line. You would have left the hall with the sense that here was a nation in boisterous good health and irrepressible high spirits. That, among other things, was why Boris Johnson’s speech was a triumph. No doubt the factcheckers will rip it to tatters. No doubt there will be grumbles among hostile political scientists about its vagueness on

What’s the matter with Boris?

The Tories are ahead in the polls, the pandemic is easing, and the Prime Minister’s position is secure. And yet, for all the thronging crowds and warm white wine being guzzled at this year’s Conservative party conference, a strange gloom fills the air – and it has something to do with the dear leader, Boris Johnson. Having been so ebullient for so long, and for many years the cheerleader for Tory optimism at every conference, Johnson seems weirdly subdued, even grumpy. Around the fringes of the conference, a question is being quietly asked: is something wrong with Boris? The Prime Minister has been on a media blitz – but he’s


Watch: Corbyn gatecrashes Tory conference

This year’s Tory party conference in Manchester is something of an inclusive affair. Labour’s Barry Gardiner has been spotted enjoying himself at a late-night drinks reception for Conservative MPs. And Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham has also been wooing delegates on the fringes. Last night, it was the turn of another unexpected face to make an appearance outside the conference centre: Piers Corbyn. The brother of the ex-Labour leader – and Boris’s favourite weatherman – was on hand to berate those heading into the conference centre. Piers blasted the Tories and the Labour party which he said was ‘totally pathetic’.  But it’s safe to say Corbyn’s words didn’t go down well with some

Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg called ‘scum’ by protesters

Greeted by a throng of angry protesters outside Tory conference, some of the party’s MPs are taking the easy option – and choosing to walk a different way. But not Jacob Rees-Mogg.  After leaving the conference centre, Mogg – dressed immaculately, as usual, in his buttoned-up suit – walked straight into the thick of it. He might have regretted his decision.  Mogg was booed loudly and heckled by demonstrators, with one calling him ‘scum’. Here’s the video: Having headed through the crowd of demonstrators, Mogg then turned back and ran the gauntlet again – only this time to be confronted by an angry protester who blamed the Tories for not being

Boris Johnson and the Tory identity crisis

The Tory conference in Manchester will be a relatively muted affair. In part, this is because — as I say in the Times today — of the fuel crisis. Ministers are acutely aware that even if petrol queues ease this weekend, the autumn will be full of such difficulties. What is known in government as the EFFing crisis — energy, fuel and food — will be a theme of the next few months. Even cabinet optimists think the shortage of lorry drivers will produce flare-ups over the coming months as supply chains come under pressure. Johnson’s conference speech will be in line with his recent Gaullist turn But conference will also