We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve fallen asleep during Thérèse Coffey’s speech! Now the Conservative Party Conference has ended, we examine what the Tory’s seminal event said about who is top and who is not.
Dorries said that being Secretary of State for just over a year exhausted her. Well, imagine being Gove, who after holding a Cabinet position for twelve years, has now been relegated to “influential backbencher”.
Armed with over a decade of Ministerial experience and none of the shackles that comes with being in Cabinet: Michael Gove is now living his best life.
Coverage about him at Tory conference feels reverent, with The Guardian going so far as to say he is “doing more gigs than Ed Sheeran”. Easily outshining Truss’ Motley Crue, Gove has united nearly every Tory faction around his “It’s not Conservative” line, succinctly satisfying those who are constructively critical of the mini-budget right up to those who now have a snappy one-liner to brandish at Truss.
Truss would have wanted news outlets to be revelling in the success of her Conference speech, but many politicos have instead been ruminating on Michael Gove’s current activity and long-term strategy. Gove has this week succeeded in setting government policy by leading the charge that forced the Chancellor to reinstate the 45p tax rate but what next for this most capable of politicians? Uprating benefits to match inflation could be the next likely rebellion, but will this newly capable Tory opposition be satisfied with incremental policy changes or is something more substantial afoot?
Maybe even more unprecedented than the nose-dive in Truss’ popularity is the re-branding of Nadine Dorries as the voice of reason and moderation. As a “recovering Secretary of State”, Dorries can be found in most major news outlets over the last few days, even enjoying front page of The Times, with some of the soundest reasoning we’ve seen from the Tories this week.
Despite being a leading figure on the Tory right, Dorries has been amongst those rallying against benefits being increased below inflation, labelling it as “cruel”.
This is a departure from her recent agenda of Channel 4 privatisation and controversial raps on TikTok about the Online Safety Bill. Is this signalling a new, calmer era for Nadine as she awaits her peerage?
You knew it was coming!
After her speech at Tory conference on Wednesday, Truss was experiencing something far worse than being “divisive” …she was being pitied. A headline from The Times this week deals a blow that no Tory would want to read: “Leader is less popular than Corbyn at is his lowest” …ouch.
The audience in front of a leader for their party conference speech is literally party members and assembled journalists. But the real audience – especially for a new party leader – is the general public. This is the chance to introduce yourself the electorate and set out what your vision is for the country. Truss has been clear that her vision is for accelerated economic growth as the panacea that will solve all of the other challenges we face.
But there are several issues with this ambition. Firstly, The Truss government is already on the backfoot over some of the specific policies that it imagines will help it reach the promised land of economic growth. The scrapping of the 45p rate has, ironically, been scrapped because it wasn’t going to have the votes to get through the Commons – how many more supply-side reforms will also hit the buffers due to parliamentary arithmetic?
Secondly, some of this government’s other polices – such as on immigration or planning – also don’t seem completely aligned with rapid economic growth. Further details on these are due to be released in the coming weeks but it will be a challenge to ensure that they are all aligned with the overall political objective.
Thirdly, does the framing of ‘economic growth’ as the overall political objective really speak to people’s concerns? The government want the economy growing by 2.5% by 2024 (a huge challenge in itself) but the Tories will only reap the political benefits if people actually feel richer instead of just being told that they are. High inflation and interest rates are certainly not going to help here.
But who knows, a week in politics is a long time. Maybe this lady’s [future] could be for turning.