The Tory Party Conference is currently in full swing, and you can imagine what it’s like.
A room full of crackpot old farts falling asleep to dismal speeches given by sub-par Ministers, Parliamentarians and commentators. You can imagine it is like this, because all party conferences are like this.
Labour’s one last week was an utter shambles, and it seems as though no-one really gave a moment’s notice to the Lib-Dems’ one.
Yet, every year, the media go and dutifully report on the conferences, from the flagship policies to the painfully-tedious debates. Every year, the parties themselves try to whip up a fervour for their party’s vision. And, by and large, there is usually at least something interesting said over the course of the conference season.
But this year’s Tory conference is pointless.
Not because of the fact that it was planned at the last minute. Not because of the fact that most of their policies had already been announced. Not even because of the fact that Boris Johnson’s womanising past is casting a shadow over the whole event.
But because Joris Bohnson (as per this unfortunate spoonerism during a vox-pop last week) is not the man who holds the power over the Conservative Party.
The 21 Tory Rebels, sacked from the Whip for defying his wishes, are the real arbiters of power.
Which is a touch ironic, wouldn’t you think?
So No Conference Analysis At All, Then?
Oh, go on then.
The Tory Party Conference has been, as you’d imagine, full to the brim of pro-Boris, pro-Brexit supporters. The messaging coming from the man himself has been a pledge to “Get Brexit Done,” and those around him have shown very clear and obvious support for their main man.
Seeing as the organisers choose who attends the event, this is unsurprising.
Many Tories have remained in London for most of the conference, which is unusual. This is not because they are so desperately anti-Boris that they can’t stand to be in the same conference hall as him, but because Parliament is currently sitting.
In response to Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament, last week Parliament itself refused to allow the Tories to suspend Parliament for its conference, which is what normally happens.
So there’s been a bit of a strange feel to the conference. Because Johnson, Cummings et al all expected to be fighting an election campaign right now, most of their hands have already been played, with very few new policies being available to announce.
Not to say that nothing new has been said. Sajid Javid started a speech yesterday with a genuinely touching moment by speaking Punjabi to his mum, who was in the audience. He announced a raising of the national living wage from £8.21 per hour to £10.50 by 2024. This is a good thing in principle, and is actually also a Labour policy, but comes with risks.
This puts the burden of financing higher incomes on to businesses, rather than the government. Smaller businesses, in particular, might struggle to set the wage as defined by Whitehall.
But, it’s also worth noting that the standard inflation rate of wages would see a rise to £9.45 by 2024 anyway. So it’s a) not going to be that much more damaging to businesses’ overheads and b) not that exciting a policy.
And yet that’s the A-Grade takeaway from the conference thus far.
Except for this video of Esther McVey having all 4 of her brain cells stimulated by the idea of 3D modelling, which has been around since the late 1970s.
Give Me Strength. But It’s Irrelevant?
Yep. Because the Tories that are currently at the conference aren’t even the Tories who are in charge. Everything they promise, all the policies they reveal, are irrelevant, because there is no Parliamentary majority anymore.
The second that Boris expelled the 21 Tory MPs who refused to vote with him in favour of no-deal all those many months ago (it was only three weeks ago), he made it so that he is unable to pass legislation without support from opposition parties.
He also gave himself a brand-new enemy – moderate Conservatives.
In particular, one gets the impression that Dominic Grieve wouldn’t dive in after a drowning Boris Johnson so much as chuck him a cast-iron life-ring. And what’s becoming increasingly clear is that Johnson is laughably, hopelessly mismatched against Grieve’s considerable intelligence and unwavering commitment to decency.
To create such a powerful enemy would be unwise at the best of times. At a time of crisis, to immediately hand over one of your finest legal minds to the opposition, as he has done with Grieve, is what is known in politics as appallingly bloody stupid.
Grieve has been prominently on the same side as Jo Swinson, Caroline Lucas, Ian Blackford, Anna Soubry and other prominent pro-Remain MPs in recent weeks. Not Corbyn quite so much, although they did unite to pass the Benn Act.
Together, they have been meeting and working together to prevent Johnson from carrying out his plans – as they now can essentially cast the deciding vote in Parliament, whatever happens next can only be approved by them.
…Unless the EU refuses to back another extension, which is possible, but unlikely.
So while Johnson might stand before the faithful as their emperor and decree his will unto them, he is powerless to actually enact it.
He is like a wasp under a glass on a pub table: furious, railing against the sides of his imprisonment, and desperately trying to stab his stinger at his captors on the other side of the glass.
They won’t care, though. They’ve got him just where they want him.
And he’s not going anywhere.