The Conservative party conference 2017: The end of May’s tenure?

Ever since the election on the 8th June, the Conservative party and its leader, Theresa May, have been on a downward spiral. A snap election, called by Mrs May herself, had seen her party lose its parliamentary majority despite having a 21 point lead in the polls beforehand. From the renewal of fox hunting to the dementia tax, it was safe to say that May’s campaign and manifesto had been a complete disaster. Since the election, her incompetence shown in the Brexit negotiations has seen Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party leapfrog the Conservatives in the polls. The annual party conference was thus her opportunity to get the party back on track. However, she failed to deliver. The first mistake the party made was holding the conference in Manchester, a city which is red through and through. Conservative MPs were met by a swarm of protestors voicing their discontent with Tory austerity.

After speeches from various cabinet members such as Boris Johnson and Phillip Hammond, it was now time for the Prime Minister to speak. It was clear that she had finally listened to voters. She announced a freeze in the cap on tuition fees at £9250 and a higher earnings repayment threshold of £25,000. This was May’s way of appeasing young voters, who had turned out in record numbers and mostly voted Labour. Equally, she echoed Ed Milliband’s 2014 promise of a “British dream” of home ownership for young people by making £2 billion available for council and social housing.

Nevertheless, May’s speech was to be marred by several incidents. Prankster, Simon Brodkin, handed her a P45 as she continually coughed throughout her speech. To top it all off, several letters from her slogan ‘a country that works for everyone’ began to drop off, almost foreshadowing the prime minister’s political demise. These events were to upstage May’s policies in terms of media coverage.

A positive that did come from the conference, was a sense of unity that had been missing from the party for quite some time. Despite having undermined May’s Brexit plan just several days beforehand, foreign secretary, Boris Johnson claimed that the Prime Minister would deliver “a great Brexit deal” and even congratulated her on her election victory. His words were echoed by several other cabinet members who agreed that the party must unite. However, Former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, stated “I just hope that in Manchester the Conservative Party start to say in public what they are all saying to me in private – that she’s a waste of space, she needs to go”.

Like many other pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, Farage rejected May’s 2 year ‘transition’ period following Britain’s leaving of the EU in March 2019. If these comments are true, Theresa May appears to be on borrowed time. Fortunately for May, the triggering of article 50 means that the negotiating clock is ticking. Therefore, a Conservative leadership election would be suicidal for the country. Equally, Conservative MPs fear the fractions and instability caused by a leadership election would lead to a Jeremy Corbyn government. For now, it appears that Theresa May is here to stay until at least March 2019. But after that? Only time will tell.

Julien Yvon

(Image courtesy of The Australian)