- Good afternoon.
The Tory party seems to be having a crisis of confidence after the election, which is coming out into the open at its annual conference in Manchester. Theresa May made clear to party members that she thought Jeremy Corbyn had “changed” the political consensus in his favour, and that the party had to argue for Conservative principles “all over again”. It fell to Ruth Davidson today to give her party a pep talk, declaring at a fringe event that it was having a “nervous breakdown” and needed to “man up”.
The Scottish Conservative leader was urged by activists to “save” the party, but stressed that she “honestly can’t see” ever running for the party leadership. The Prime Minister tried to capitalise on her popularity yesterday, thanking her yesterday for derailing the SNP’s dream of a second independence referendum with her performance in Scotland. She held her hand aloft and declared with pride – “Together we saved the Union.”
The Union may be safe, but ministers still have to grapple with another one – the European Union. Philip Hammond sounded typically cautious in his keynote speech on leaving it, telling members to be “clear-eyed about the challenges along our way” and not to “downplay the difficulties nor underestimate the complexities”. Business groups weren’t bowled over by his address. Other ministers were more upbeat in their tone. Michael Gove lambasted the EU’s “disastrous” environmental policies and suggested that “outside…we can do so much better”.
Theresa May tried to settle the Government’s approach to Brexit in her Florence speech, hoping that it would free her to talk about other things, but that doesn’t mean it will fade away in relevance during this conference. David Davis will be speaking tomorrow, as will Boris Johnson, on the theme of “promoting Global Britain”. Meanwhile, MEPs are set to debate – and vote – on a motion accusing Britain of not doing enough to make progress in the negotiation process. The Prime Minister might want to be known for more than Brexit, but it will loom large when she comes to make her own speech on Wednesday.
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