Our Associate Consultant Tom Jaggs offers his own personal insights on how Conservative Party Conference is unfolding in Birmingham.
The first thing to say is that it feels like overall attendance is down and the demographics have continued to slide in the wrong direction. Obviously the OAPs and the 18 year olds in ill-fitting power suits are being well represented. Outside of that however, you don’t get the sense that this conference is made up of the party faithful from “middle England.” Far too many people, like me, here to do a job.
Don’t even get me started on Greg Clarke’s speech to conference. Woeful. At such a critical time, the SoS for Business should have set out how the Tory government is supporting business through these challenging and uncertain times. What we got was a gimmicky live stream of him wandering round a manufacturing research plant in Coventry talking to employees and apprentices about what they were doing and how this is a shining example of the industry strategy in practice. At the very end, he made a one line reference to the LSIS quoting the investment by MSD, which is god knows how many months old.
Dominic Raab in his speech to conference was at least there in person. Admittedly, it was a much more impassioned speech with his clear willingness to do a deal with Brussels, but making it crystal clear that compromise is not without limit. However, this has been somewhat overshadowed by May’s interview in which she seemed to indicate further compromise on Chequers might be in the offing. The main concern I had with his speech was his desire to downplay the ramifications of a no-deal scenario in an effort to keep this as a bargaining chip. In a flippant remark trying to demonstrate the leave side overplaying their scaremongering tactics, he linked concerns about medicines shortage with concerns of debris falling from the sky.
Hammond’s speech was about as exciting as watching paint dry, presumably a mild grey. In a speech where he was warning that if the Tories were seen as a party of no change, then people would be seduced by dangerous Corbyn populism of empty promises, the only tangible new proposal was that of a Digital Services Tax. No need to scan other online sources for additional info, those three words were about all we got. I hate to say it, but I agree with John McDonnell when he said, following Hammond’s speech, “the Tories are bereft of any new ideas” (shudder). Not to mention that the auditorium was hardly packed to the rafters for his speech and the section that is usually reserved for company execs that come for the business day had more empty seats than a lib dem conference.
Most worryingly, the party faithful that did turn up were queuing around the block for both BoJo’s and Reese-Mogg’s fringe events. As such, the leadership seem to be focusing much of their effort speaking inwards, trying to steady the ship, rather than projecting outwards.
Contact Tom Jaggs for more insight (views are author’s own)